LafargeHolcim, GE unit team on 3D-printed wind turbine pedestals

Sources: LafargeHolcim Ltd., Zurich; CP staff

The latest target in a LafargeHolcim investigation of 3D-printed concrete elements or structures is a pedestal for a new class of turbines, 150-200 meters high, that have the potential to harness one-third or more energy than the shorter towers dotting wind farms the world over.  

LafargeHolcim and partners envision a prototype pedestal, likely exhibiting 3D-printed concrete’s layered texture; production-ready printer; and, materials designed and scaled to field deployment. The project began with a 10-meter turbine base fabricated late last year in Copenhagen, home to partner COBOD International A/S.

After participating in a 10-meter scale model printing late last year, the concrete, cement and aggregates giant has entered a partnership with GE Renewable Energy and Copenhagen-based COBOD International A/S to develop supertall wind turbines with optimized, 3D-printed bases. GE Renewable Energy will provide expertise related to turbine design, manufacture and commercialization; COBOD, short for Constructing Buildings on Demand, will focus on robotics automation and 3D printing assemblies; and, LafargeHolcim will tailor the concrete material or ink, along with its processing and application.

“Concrete 3D printing is a very promising technology for us, as its incredible design flexibility expands the realm of construction possibilities. Being both a user and promoter of clean energy, we are delighted to be putting our material and design expertise to work in this groundbreaking project, enabling cost-efficient construction of tall wind turbine towers and accelerating access to renewable energy,” says LafargeHolcim R&D Head Edelio Bermejo.

“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,” adds COBOD founder Henrik Lund-Nielsen.

“Concrete printing has advanced significantly over the last five years and we believe is getting closer to have real application in the industrial world,” observes GE Renewable Energy Advanced Manufacturing Technology Leader Matteo Bellucci. “We are committed to taking full advantage of this technology both from the design flexibility it allows as well as for the logistic simplification it enables on such massive components.” 

Traditional steel or precast concrete wind turbine towers have typically been limited to 100-meter height, as the base width cannot exceed a 4.5-meter diameter that can be economically transported by road. Fabricating a variable height base directly on-site with 3D-printed concrete technology will enable the construction of 150- to 200-meter tall structures. On average, a 5-megawatt turbine at 80 meters generates 15.1 GWh annually; the same device operating at double the height can generate 20.2 GWh, or 34 percent more power in a year.


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