GE to Come up With Taller Wind Turbines With Optimized 3D Printed Concrete Bases

U.S.-based GE Renewable Energy, COBOD, and LafargeHolcim have signed a contract to co-develop wind turbines with 3D printed concrete technology, creating larger bases and cost-effective taller hybrid towers, reaching up to 200 meters.

Building on the industry-leading expertise of each partner, this collaboration aims to accelerate the access and use of renewable energy worldwide. According to the company’s statement, the three companies plan to undertake a multi-year collaboration to develop wind turbines, which will increase renewable energy production while lowering the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and optimizing construction costs. The statement noted that the three companies would produce a wind turbine prototype with a printed pedestal, and a production-ready printer and material range to scale up the production.

LafargeHolcim operates in the building materials and solutions segment, while COBOD International is a 3D construction printing company, supplying 3D construction printing technology to customers in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S.

According to GE Renewable Energy, it has so far installed more than 400 GW of renewable capacity worldwide.


Generally, the height of wind turbine towers has been limited to under 100 meters, as the width of the base cannot exceed the 4.5-meter diameter that can be transported by road without additional costs. They are usually built-in steel or precast concrete. Normally, a 5 MW turbine at 80 meters generates 15.1 GWh yearly. In comparison, the same turbine at 160 meters would generate 20.2 GWh, or more than 33% extra power.

By exploring ways to develop taller towers that capture stronger winds economically, the three partners aim to generate more renewable energy per turbine. The prototype, a 10-meter-high tower pedestal, was successfully printed in October 2019 in Copenhagen.

According to the agreement, GE Renewable Energy will provide expertise related to the design, manufacture, and commercialization of wind turbines while COBOD will work on the robotics automation and 3D printing. LafargeHolcim will design the tailor-made concrete material, it’s processing, and application.

Edelio Bermejo, Head of R&D for LafargeHolcim, explained that the concrete 3D printing is a very promising technology as its design flexibility expands the realm of construction possibilities.

Henrik Lund-Nielsen, the founder of COBOD International, added: “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, to benefit customers and lower the CO2 footprint from the production of energy.”

Matteo Bellucci, an advanced manufacturing technology leader for GE Renewable Energy, noted that this large-format additive manufacturing would bring disruptive potential to the wind industry.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), in its recently published report, stated that 22,893 wind turbines were installed globally in 2019. These turbines came from 33 suppliers, accounting for over 63 GW of capacity. According to the report, GE Renewable Energy was the fourth-biggest supplier.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently forecasted that the global renewable installations might fall for the first time in 20 years due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The report also showed that solar and wind installations accounted for about 86% of global capacity additions in 2020. However, the report stated that the annual expansion rate of wind installations is expected to decline by 12% compared to 2019.

Image credit: GE