Two General Electric businesses have drawn research funding to study manufacturing and inspection processes for wind-turbine housings, and specifically the large iron castings that house those power units. GE Renewable Energy and GE Research will receive grants from the National Offshore Wind Research & Development Consortium – a not-for-profit public-private partnership that promotes offshore wind technology.
The Consortium is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, with further contributions from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, and Virginia.
Large iron castings are the primary structural element for wind turbines – and producing those castings is a specialized capability for a limited number of iron foundries. Last year GE Renewable Energy participated in a research project with voxeljet AG and Germany’s Fraunhofer IGCV research institute, involving 3D printing of the large-scale sand molds required to cast those housings.
GE’s involvement supports its Haliade-X series of wind turbines, described as the most powerful offshore turbine now available, rated for a generating capacity of 14-, 13-, or 12 MW. As the turbines are designed with a 220-meter rotor and three 107-meter blades, the Haliade-X nacelle (i.e., housing) is designed for structural and mechanical reliability, as well as environmental durability in offshore installations.
The Haliade-X has been selected for installation in several offshore wind-energy projects in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
The Consortium’s first award aims to develop a joining process for large iron castings, including a “multi-fidelity” modeling platform for splitting and welding offshore wind castings. Developing a system for producing those castings will promote job growth and strengthen the U.S. domestic supply chain.
The second award focuses using an Autonomous Inspection Vessel (AIV) for offshore wind, starting with a feasibility study using an AIV-based multi-sensing system for long-duration, region-wide inspection and monitoring of fleets of offshore wind turbines, with minimal operational interruption.The proposed system would involve visible-range camera and be controlled remotely via satellite, cutting inspection costs, minimizing turbine downtime, and promoting worker safety.