GE joins the race to sustainable energy for all with its new wind turbine project. The company wants to build the tallest wind turbine in the US by 3-D Printing the base. Prototype of a 10 meter base for the wind turbine. (Image credit: GE)
GE announced that it is planning to build a wind turbine taller than some of the landmarks in the area, like the Seattle needle! Such a big endeavor called for international cooperation: GE, COBOD – a reputable European 3-D printing company, and LafargeHolcim – a Swiss global leader in building materials. The idea of building taller than average turbines is not a new concept. In Europe, the practice is very common in countries that don’t experience a lot of wind; the taller the turbine, the more chances it has to catch strong winds. In the US, the average height of a wind turbine is around 80 meters, while in Europe, it reaches as high as 178 meters. GE is trying to beat the European size and build a 200-meter turbine. Accomplishing such a feat could turn out to be a logistic and labor nightmare when we consider the transportation costs of the giant pieces required to put such a tall turbine together, and the workforce required. In addition to costs, transporting those giant parts might end up just increasing the company’s carbon footprint. However, GE has thought of a solution: 3-D printing the base on site.
With the help of its partners COBOD and LafargeHolcim, experts in building with concrete and 3-D printing, GE will be 3-D Printing the base of the turbine in concrete onsite once the location is finalized. Then to the 10 to 80-meter tall base, the team will add steel towers to achieve the desired height (160 meters minimum). At this height, the turbine will generate about 5000kW of energy yearly, a 33 percent increase compared to the average US wind turbine. However, GE has some competition: RCAM Technologies, a startup in California, is also projecting to building to build 2 turbines using the same technique. Although both companies are still testing their prototypes, GE has already announced it will start production in 2023. If successful, the technique will definitely make it easier to create plants of wind turbines and therefore generate more sustainable energy for consumers. Meanwhile, there is a lot of research in progress to perfect the balance between the material (its characteristics and strength), and the ease of Printing.
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