Could wooden windmills make a comeback? Sweden’s newest turbine shuns steel

Wind power is clearly one of the most exciting sustainable energy solutions at the moment. It’s expected to be the European Union’s largest power source as early as 2027 — and the U.S. isn’t exactly sleeping on it, either. But don’t necessarily get too attached to the “traditional” steel and fiberglass wind turbines that have been popping up in a growing number of locations around the world. In Sweden, the engineering firm Modvion has been hard at work reinventing the turbine to make it even more ecologically friendly — by building it out of laminated wood.

“Building the towers of laminated wood has several advantages,” Otto Lundman, CEO of Modvion AB, told Digital Trends. “Steel — that traditionally has been used — is very strong [for its] volume. However, there is no lack of space for the tower wall in a wind tower. Modvion’s tower is stronger than steel per weight and per cost, which is a huge advantage to reach higher altitudes. Furthermore, steel is a large emitter of CO2, while a Modvion tower is a large carbon sink as the wood has sequestered CO2 from the atmosphere when it has grown. By using Modvion wooden towers, wind power can become carbon neutral from the start.”

Modvion

Modvion’s laminated wooden towers can stretch as high as 500 feet, and be more easily transported to their site due to the lighter weight and modular design. So far, towers have been erected in Germany and Sweden. However, these are only 100-foot proof-of-concept constructions, built in conjunction with wood construction company Moelven, rather than the much taller final product they will end up as. Because wind power is more cost-effective the bigger the turbine, these larger turbines promise to generate energy at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour by reaching stronger and more stable winds with their larger rotors.

“The first Modvion tower was installed in April, just outside Gothenburg city, Sweden,” Lundman continued. “This was a downscaled 1:5 version of our 500 ft model … for the Swedish wind power technology center at Chalmers University of Technology. The first commercial-scale tower will be installed in 2022, and additional letters of intent for towers, following that first one, are in place.”

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