GE announced today that it’s developing skyscraper-sized wind turbines with massive 3D-printed bases. The conglomerate plans to work with partners in the construction industry to produce both a printer and materials that could eventually be deployed around the world.
Taller turbines can capitalize on stronger winds at higher altitudes, and the structures support larger blades that generate more power. But building bigger turbines makes transporting the pieces needed to put it together a logistical nightmare. GE hopes to 3D print the base of a turbine wherever they want to place it, so that they won’t need to haul around such a gigantic hunk of concrete or steel.The company says its onshore turbines could reach up to 200 meters tall, which is taller than the Seattle Space Needle and more than double the average height for wind turbines in the US today.
Onshore wind turbines have had a massive growth spurt since the 1980s, when they averaged a height of about 20 meters in the US — not counting the blades. Under ideal conditions, those earlier turbines had a maximum output of about 100kW per turbine. By 2017, those numbers grew to 84 meters tall with an output of more than 2MW (2000kW). Turbines in parts of Europe, where there aren’t as strong winds closer to the ground, can reach greater heights. One of the tallest onshore turbines, in Gaildorf, Germany, towers 178 meters tall. GE wants to go even bigger.