GE Co-Develop On-Site 3D Printing For World's Tallest Wind Turbines

This method for on-site building of optimized 3D printed concrete bases will be a massive boost for clean energy.
Chris Young

Wind turbine towers are usually limited to a height of under 100 meters. This is because they are typically built in steel or precast concrete, heavy materials that have to be transported by road to the turbine's construction site.

Now, a collaboration between GE Renewable Energy, COBOD and LafargeHolcim, announced last week, will seem them co-develop a method for on-site building of optimized 3D printed concrete bases, that will be able to harness more of the winds energy by reaching record heights up to 200 meters.


The problem with steel and precast concrete wind turbines

The three partners are set to undertake a collaboration that will span several years in order to develop this innovative solution, GE explained in a press release.

Traditionally, wind turbines are built in steel or precast concrete. This limits them to a height of 100 meters because the width of the base cannot exceed the 4.5-meter diameter that allows it to be transported by road — without prohibitive additional logistics costs.

The new method by the three-company partnership allows for the printing of a variable height base directly on-site with 3D-printed concrete technology. This is a neat method for working around the problem, that should allow the construction of towers up to 150 to 200 meters tall.

GE Co-Develop On-Site 3D Printing For World's Tallest Wind Turbines
Source: GE

Not only will the 3D printing technique increase renewable energy production, it will also lower the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) and lower construction costs. 

Ultimately, the three organizations will produce a wind turbine prototype with a printed pedestal and a production-ready printer and materials range to scale up production.

A groundbreaking 3D printing development

GE Renewable Energy will provide expertise related to the design and manufacture of the turbine going forward, COBOD will bring its expertise robotics automation and 3D printing and LafargeHolcim is developing the specially-made concrete material used for the turbine.

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"With our groundbreaking 3D printing technology combined with the competence and resources of our partners, we are convinced that this disruptive move within the wind turbines industry will help drive lower costs and faster execution times, to benefit customers and lower the CO2 footprint from the production of energy," Henrik Lund-Nielsen, founder of COBOD International A/S, explained in the press release.

The first prototype, a 10-meter high tower pedestal, has already been successfully printed. It was printed back in October 2019 in Copenhagen and was built as part of the three companies' effort to generate more renewable energy per turbine.

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