EU-funded wind tower – built out of wood "stronger than steel" – will spur a number of commercial projects in Sweden, Modvion said, and marks a major breakthrough for the development of taller, lower-carbon wind turbines.
A 30-metre wooden wind turbine tower has been erected by engineering and industrial design firm Modvion on a Swedish island close to the city of Gothenburg.
Modvion announced last week that the successful pilot project, built for research purposes for the Swedish Wind Technology Centre, marked a "major breakthrough" in the development of a new generation of low-carbon, high-efficiency wind turbines.
"Laminated wood is stronger than steel at the same weight, and by building in modules, wind turbines can be taller," chief executive Otto Lundman said. "By building in wood, we also reduce carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing and instead store carbon dioxide in the design."
Alongside their environmental benefits, advocates of wooden wind towers maintain that they hold several major advantages for wind project developers accustomed to working with steel. For example, because wood is cheaper, lighter, and can be transported in smaller modules, construction costs for wooden towers are likely to be lower. Furthermore, a modular approach to construction allows towers to be taller and wider, meaning that turbines can extend longer vertically and operate in places where wind speeds are higher.
As demand for wind power generation soars, there is a growing demand for taller turbines capacle of capturing stronger wind yields. With traditional steel towers limited by transport restrictions, wooden turbine towers could make it easier to install bigger, taller, and more turbines at a wider range of locations.
However, the wooden power tower construction sector remains at an early stage, with the project announced last week reportedly the first in Sweden. It is also significantly larger than a number of smaller prototypes developed elsewhere in Europe.
Modvion's pilot tower, which was awarded €50,000 from the European Union's Horizon 2020 innovation fund in July 2019, was built inland at a glued laminated timber factory owned by project partner and industrial wood specialist Moelven. It was then transported in pieces on public roads and assembled at the project site.
The project also benefitted from funding from the Swedish Energy Agency and the Västra Götaland region.
Ola Carlson, director of the Swedish Power Technology Centre, said that wooden wind turbines promised to make clean energy production even more efficient and climate-friendly. "Wind power is expected to be the EU's largest power source as early as 2027," she said. With wind towers in wood, we get even more climate-smarter renewable electricity to face the climate crisis."
Following the success of the pilot project, there are a number of industry partners hoping to be among the first to deploy the low-carbon technology in Sweden. Modvion said it had signed declarations of intent to build a 110-metre-high turbine for utility Varberg Energi and 10 towers, each at least 150 metres high, for renewable energy operator Rabbalshede Kraft.
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