Increase the potential of capacity factor
NREL's research shows that in the Great Plains, the annual power generation capacity factor of some wind farms can exceed 50% with a tower height of 80 meters. It is well known that the application of higher towers can make wind power more economically competitive in more regions.
At a meeting of the American Wind Energy Association in May this year, NREL researchers wrote in a report on high-tower wind turbine technology, "Outside the wind belt center, the average development cost of wind power is higher than Low-cost natural gas and low-cost photovoltaic power generation, the cost of which is still decreasing."
“In order to expand the geographical scope of wind power applications, it is necessary to continuously evaluate the tower technology,” the team added. “The higher hub height significantly increases the capacity factor.”
The road to the market
Aaron Barr, senior consultant at MAKE Consulting, said in an e-mail: "After the hub height exceeds 120 meters, concrete towers have quickly become a cost-effective alternative to steel tube towers."
Barr pointed out that in Europe, concrete towers have been in use for more than a decade. However, most concrete towers are prefabricated elsewhere and shipped to the project site. RCAM technology companies can avoid many transportation restrictions by pouring concrete on site.
He added: "With on-site pouring, you can save on logistics and materials costs, and bring some of the most promising applications of current 3D printing technology to the wind power industry."
But Barr warns that 3D printing technology may increase the lifting time of wind turbines. “Special equipment and concrete curing time may greatly increase the construction period of the wind farm.” He said: “In most wind farms in the United States, if all the unit equipment has been transported to the site, the lifting speed can reach 1 unit. /Day, even faster. However, the use of on-site manufacturing of concrete towers will greatly lengthen the installation cycle, thereby increasing the cost and implementation risk of wind farm development."
Can RCAM Technologies manufacture concrete wind towers with 3-D printing technology as quickly and inexpensively as it estimates? The company will work with the Civil Engineering Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine to complete the prototype construction and testing.
As part of NREL's EnergyI-Corps program, JasonCotrell and his colleague Scott Jenne visited 75 machine builders and development companies.
“We found that another machine manufacturer is exploring a very similar technology, we are in contact with that manufacturer and look forward to working intensively with it,” Cotrell said in a video released by NREL.
Cotrell confirmed in an e-mail that RCAM Technologies is discussing cooperation with several machine builders, including the company that he mentioned in the video without an open name.