Could 3D-printed wind turbines power Tel Aviv?

Prof. Yilmaz Uygun, from Constructor University Bremen, has led a team of German researchers who have developed a proprietary 3-D printer that is capable of printing the parts needed to build a medium-scale turbine which can be effectively used in urban settings. The turbines are currently being tested in a secondary school. Uygun claimed that the turbines could be exported by the end of this year if they are successful.

Wind farms are not usually allowed in urban areas due to the architecture. The blades of large horizontal wind turbines are usually between 70-90 meters in length. In addition, they are also noisy. 

In Germany there are laws that forbid them from being placed within urban areas.

Wind turbines that are taller than they are wide

Uygun’s team decided to develop a wind turbine that was taller, not wider, and quieter. Then, they developed a 3D printer they call “HoneyComb3D” to make it. 

“As far as I know, there are only small wind turbines (<<1m) that can be printed on desktop printers,” Uygun told the Post. “In the middle segment (3-10m), there was no other case.” “This was the primary reason we built our large-scale printer.”

HoneyComb3D, a large-scale 3D printer that prints wind turbines. Constructor University (credit)

The windmills are made from standard plastic and covered with resin to make them suitable for outdoor usage. The team specifically tested several mixtures of plastic to create composite material they believe will be able to withstand urban stresses under different conditions.

Recently, the team launched a project in which secondary schools in northern Germany were equipped with vertical axis wind generators. This created a fully-functional test field for the collection of critical data and experience in order to transfer technology and commercialize the turbines. 

Uygun explained that the project was a first in urban energy production at this scale. Its goal is to make public properties self-sufficient. The project can be easily scaled-up to support the energy transition after a successful trial at Hohenkirchen Secondary school.

Renewables: a new focus

After the Russian-Ukraine conflict, Germany has shifted its focus to renewable energy. In recent years, the country has been heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil. This led to price increases and deficits. Wind energy generated by small-scale turbines can’t replace non-renewable alternatives. Uygun, however, said that early tests have shown medium-scale wind turbines to be more efficient. If they are able to work in smaller urban areas, these turbines can play a crucial role in the energy transition of the country. 

Uygun explained that the shape of the wind turbine he designed allows him to harness the power of even the smallest gusts. “We studied the issues with other turbines to find ways to solve them. This is how our features were developed.” We are currently in the process of negotiating five to six different patents.

He said, “We are pioneers in mid-range turbines.”

Uygun stated that after the experiment and data collection – which will take about six to eight month – the goal was to export the turbines in other cities with potential for benefit. Uygun says he hopes that this can be achieved within the year.

Uygun believes that the turbines’ return on investment will be short, even though the price isn’t yet known. The team has already begun talks with investors from the US and Germany. 

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