Towers for wind turbines to be manufactured using 3D concrete printing

Towers for wind turbines to be manufactured using 3D concrete printing
Credit: JacLou DL, Pixabay

RCAM Technologies is developing a 3D printing technology using basalt fiber reinforced concrete to build wind turbine foundations.

Founded by Jason Cotrell, a former National Renewable Energy Laboratory engineer, startup RCAM Technologies offers to build foundations and towers for off-shore and land wind turbines using 3D printing with basalt fiber reinforced concrete.

To install a wind generator of industrial type, they need to manufacture a foundation. It must be strong enough to keep the structure in the air stream. The foundation is the most complex and demanding operation in the process of wind turbine installation, which must be carried out on-site.

This construction site must be at the port, or near the port at a staging area and equipped with heavy lifting machines to move bulky foundation parts. Additive technologies and basalt fiber could slash time and cost in building towers and foundations, says Jason Cotrell.

He estimates that 3D concrete printing can slash the capital cost to manufacture the finished turbine foundations and towers by up to 80 percent.

Speaking about land-based turbines, RCAM Technologies offers to 3D print foundation on-site, delivering concrete to the 3-D printer.

With the offshore project, the parts will be designed in sections in the nearest pre-cast concrete plant and installed on-site.

The startup has already raised investments to develop technologies:

  • $150,000 grant from a U.S. Department of Energy small business R&D program to develop the first-ever conceptual design and techno-economic assessment of an additively manufactured concrete offshore wind turbine foundation and tower.
  • $1.25 million grant from the California Energy Commission to develop and test 3D concrete printing technology for onsite manufacturing of ultra-tall towers for land-based turbines.

The researchers consider that basalt fiber reinforced concrete market will grow at 7.4% annually from 2018 to 2025.

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