GE will 3D print 200m wind turbine towers

GE will 3D print 200m wind turbine towers

GE Renewable Energy, COBOD (3D printing specialist) and LafargeHolcim (manufacturer of cement and other building materials) have teamed up to develop the tallest wind turbine towers in the world.

Made of steel and prestressed concrete, wind turbine towers are typically limited to about 100 meters in height, the companies said in a statement. This is mainly due to logistical considerations. The diameter of the base of the 100-meter tower is about 4.5 meters, and it is problematic to transport sections of this size or larger by road.

The GE Haliade X 12 MW offshore wind turbine tower is 150 meters high. On land in Finland, Vestas erected a 175-meter-high steel tower with guy lines. In Germany, Max Bögl installed wind turbines on 178-meter-high towers, but these were combined structures: a 40-meter base was cast separately from the concrete.

The 3D printing technology will make it possible to build concrete towers up to 200 meters high and cast them directly on-site, according to the consortium members.

Why climb so high? “At such heights, there is ‘commercial’ wind everywhere,” the wind experts would say. In many regions, quality wind resources are only available at high altitudes.

On-site 3D printing of wind turbine towers can significantly reduce the initial cost and therefore the cost per unit of energy (LCOE) in wind power.

GE gives the following example [conditional]. A 5 MW turbine in an 80-meter tower will generate 15.1 GWh of electricity per year. The same machine in a 160-meter tower will already produce 20.2 GWh, that is, 33% more.

The first prototype, a 10-meter tower element, was successfully printed in October 2019 in Copenhagen.

Consortium members focus on long-term cooperation.

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