Late 2017 RCAM Technologies was awarded the first $1.2 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop and test 3-D printing technology enabling the construction of concrete towers for land-based wind turbines in place at the project site.
Also, this startup has recently received a $150,000 grant from a U.S. Department of Energy within 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.”
What is the difference between these projects?
With an average tower height for land-based wind turbines installed in the United States at about 80 meters, RCAM Technologies wants to leverage 3D printing to erect them to the height of 140-170m. We say ‘to erect’ because additive technology is an instrument to manufacture concrete foundations that will maintain conventional steel sections.
When extremely high wind towers are under construction, their diameter is huge, so special-purpose vehicles and road conditions become very important. However, those towers could be manufactured onsite and concrete would be delivered to the 3D printer to bypass the logistics constraints.
The ultra-tall wind towers are expected to increase electricity production by more than 20 percent owing to stronger winds at this height, and present some cost savings in installation works, logistics and material cost.
The project of building towers and foundations for offshore wind turbines using additive technology doesn’t mean installing a 3D printer at sea. All construction work would be done at the port, or near the port at a pre-cast concrete plant. The parts would be designed in sections that could be cost-effectively transported over local roads or rail.
Jason Cotrell, RCAM Technologies founder said in an interview to Greentech Media that 3D concrete printing could slash the capital cost to manufacture the finished turbine foundations and towers by up to 80 percent. He intends to use basalt fiber reinforced concrete, emphasizing its advantages in marine conditions due to corrosion resistance.
In nine months the startup will be able to address U.S. Department of Energy to receive the next $1 million grant. It will be considered within the same programme and based on the analysis of the first investment round results.
However, RCAM Technologies informs their project has generated interest and they are conducting negotiations about a possible partnership with several wind turbines manufacturers.