June 6, 2018 Read More →

3D printing could slash costs for offshore wind projects

Greentech Media:

The towers and foundations for offshore wind turbines currently being deployed at sea, and the even larger machines under development, are so massive that shipping the components via road or rail is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

To address the issue, a startup founded by a former National Renewable Energy Laboratory engineer aims to use concrete additive manufacturing, also known as 3D concrete printing, to build turbine towers and foundations at or near ports for less money and in less time than with conventional methods.

Last month, JC Solutions LLC, an RCAM Technologies company, received a $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.”

The offshore project builds upon similar research under way in California, which was reported on by Greentech Media last November. There, the California Energy Commission awarded RCAM Technologies a $1.25 million grant to develop and test 3D concrete printing technology for onsite manufacturing of ultra-tall towers for land-based turbines.

With the new offshore project, “I don’t have any plans to construct towers and foundations at sea, where the turbines are installed,” said Jason Cotrell, RCAM Technologies founder and CEO, in an interview. “All construction work would be done at the port, or near the port at a staging area—like a pre-cast concrete plant,” he added. “Such plants exist in nearly every region of the country. For near-site construction, the parts would be designed in sections that could be cost-effectively transported over local roads or rail.”

For comparison, he said, each steel jacket foundation for the 6-megawatt turbines installed at Rhode Island’s Block Island offshore wind farm cost up to $10 million. Cotrell is shooting for $2 million per installed foundation using 3D concrete printing. He thinks he can build the components faster than with conventional methods, too. In his proposal for the DOE grant, Cotrell cited a figure stating it can take up to 135 days to manufacture the concrete or steel gravity-based foundation for an offshore turbine deployed in shallow water in Europe.

More: How 3D concrete printing could slash time and cost in building offshore wind projects

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