World’s tallest wooden wind turbine is ‘stronger than steel’

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There’s a wind turbine being built in the forests of Sweden — or should I say from the forests.

Budding startup Modvion, based in the Scandinavian country, is currently building the world’s tallest wooden wind turbine, and it’s on track for completion this year. 

The tower will stand 105 metres and is being built for local energy utility Varberg Energi for its wind power site near the town of Skara.  

A 2-megawatt turbine made by Danish wind giant Vestas will be mounted atop the wooden tower. Once the rig gets up and running it could power around 500 homes.

The towers are made from laminated veneer lumber, produced by glueing several massive layers of wood together. The startup says the material has a higher strength per weight than steel. It is also 30% lighter. 

Modvion has completed the construction of the large wooden sections of the tower at its factory in Gothenburg and is currently assembling the structure on site. 

section of a wooden wind turbine tower being assembled in Sweden
Modvion is currently assembling the wooden wind turbine tower at a site near Skara, Sweden. Credit: Modvion
section of a wooden wind turbine tower being assembled in Sweden
Credit: Modvion

As wind energy scales up across the world, the market is demanding taller, more sustainable turbines, and wood could hold the key. 

“Wood enables building higher towers at a lower cost, which makes wind power more efficient since winds are stronger and more stable higher up,” said Otto Lundman, CEO of Modvion. 

Industry expert Richard Cochrane from the University of Exeter previously told TNW he believes wood-based modular approaches are primed to deliver bigger and better wind-harnessing structures. 

Wood is also more sustainable than steel, an industry responsible for an estimated 8% of global CO2 emissions. Modvion claims its wooden towers are ‘carbon negative,’ meaning they store more CO2 than is emitted during their production. 

Once the towers reach their end-of-life, in around 25-30 years, they can be reused as building material. Crucially, the towers will last longer than it takes for the trees they were made from to grow back, making them a sustainable resource. 

Modvion has already successfully built a 30m prototype of its wooden turbine in Björkö, an island in Sweden. Two other projects are in the works, including Varberg’s, with plans to build larger turbines with wooden towers late next year or early 2025. 

The operation is part-financed by the Swedish Energy Agency, the Västra Götaland region, and the EU program Horizon 2020 EIC Accelerator. 

Elsewhere in Europe, Finnish manufacturer Stora Enso, one of the largest private forest owners in the world, has teamed up with German startup Voodin Blade Technology to make sustainable wooden wind turbine blades. They are currently producing and installing a 20m blade for a 0.5 MW turbine and have plans for an 80m blade. 

Stora Enso has also partnered with Modvion, so who knows, perhaps a wind turbine made almost entirely from wood will power up in the near future.