COBOD’s wind turbine printing concept received a massive boost from a deal with GE Renewable Energy.
COBOD is the well-known Denmark-based manufacturer of a massive concrete 3D printer, the BOD2. This device has been used in multiple projects to quickly build the concrete portions of buildings, including residences, up to three stories tall. They are one of the leaders in the construction 3D printing market.
You’d think this technology would be suitable for the development of buildings, and you’d be correct. However, COBOD has been thinking outside the box for applications of the technology in wider areas.
One of their most intriguing concepts involved wind turbines, which we explained in detail two years ago.
They realized that wind turbines produce power more effectively if the blades are bigger. That’s why most wind turbines seem so large. But the length of the blade is limited by the tower that holds them in the air, and that’s limited by the size of the base: A tower can be only so tall given a fixed size based, as the hub height largely determines the efficiency.
The problem is that the tower bases are manufactured in a factory and then shipped over roads to the turbine site. When traveling over roads, the maximum diameter of the base is constrained.
COBOD’s concept was to erect a BOD2 device or similar right at the turbine site, and 3D print a much larger base in place. Lower sections could thus be larger, and traditional tower elements could be built on top. This would make the tower taller, enabling the use of much longer and more efficient blades.
It’s an incredible idea, and timed perfectly during our global climate emergency. There is massive demand for wind turbines everywhere, and finding a way to make them better will surely be attractive.
Now we know how attractive the concept can be: GE Renewable Energy announced a demonstration of the concept to take place near Rochester, NY. A team of 20 people are operating the BOD2 inside a warehouse to produce experimental tower bases up to 20m tall.
The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to the tune of US$5M. However, if the experiment succeeds, then we could see GE Renewable Energy adopt this approach as a standard method for their huge wind turbine business: the division’s revenue in 2020 was almost US$16B.
COBOD may be on the verge of selling a great many BOD2 printers.