Sweden welcomes its first wooden wind turbine tower
The wheels have begun to turn on an interesting new form of wind turbine in Sweden, with the country’s first wooden power-generation tower now complete. Built from sustainably sourced materials and said to offer comparable performance to traditional wind turbines, it's hoped the wooden power tower will be a harbinger of cheaper and greener solutions for renewable energy in the Nordic country, with commercial versions planned for a couple of years down the track.
Following in the footsteps of a similar creation in Germany, the new wooden wind tower is the brainchild of Swedish engineering firm Modvion, which is out to improve on what it sees as significant drawbacks when it comes to typical wind towers. These tall, steel towers demand thick bases to support their upper sections, which not only makes them very expensive to produce, but very expensive to transport to site, with rules around load size on public roads often proving problematic.
Modvion is instead working on a modular version that can be made out of cheaper and greener materials than steel, which requires huge amounts of energy to produce. The company’s wooden wind towers are designed to reach heights of more than 120 m (393 ft), at significantly lower cost than those made out of steel, with the modular approach allowing for stackable sections to be transported on public roads without issue. They are also claimed to be carbon neutral from the day construction begins.
The 30-meter (100-ft) proof-of-concept tower was built together with wood construction company Moelven at its facility in Töreboda. The wooden sections of the turbine were then transported to Björkö, an island outside Gothenburg around 200 km (124 mi) away, with the final piece put into place in late April.
"This is a major breakthrough that paves the way for the next generation of wind turbines," says Otto Lundman, CEO of Modvion AB. "Laminated wood is stronger than steel at the same weight and by building in modules, the wind turbines can be taller. By building in wood, we also reduce carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing and instead store carbon dioxide in the design."
If things continue smoothly for Modvion, it plans to produce commercial-scale versions of its wooden turbine in 2022. These include a 110-meter-tall (360-ft) version for Varberg Energi, as well as 10 towers in excess of 150 m (490 ft) tall for renewable energy company Rabbalshede Kraf.
"Wind power is expected to be the EU's largest power source as early as 2027," says Ola Carlson, director of the Swedish Wind Power Technology Centre and assistant professor of renewable power generation. "With wind towers in wood, we get even more climate-smarter renewable electricity to face the climate crisis."