The world's tallest wooden turbine, recently activated by the Swedish startup Modvion near Gothenburg, reaches a height of 150 meters (492 feet) from the ground to the tip of its highest blade. At its summit, a 2-Megawatt generator is now in operation, contributing electricity to the Swedish grid and powering around 400 homes.
Externally, the Modvion wooden turbine closely resembles its steel counterparts, with both featuring a robust white coating for weather protection. Additionally, they share blades primarily composed of fibreglass, linked to a generator that generates electricity as the blades rotate. However, it is only upon entering the tower that the distinctions become apparent, notably in the form of walls adorned with a curved raw wood finish.
The robustness of the tower emanates from the 144 layers of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) comprising its thick walls. Modvion has adeptly manipulated the strength and flexibility of the walls by altering the grain of each 3mm-thick layer of spruce. The company's co-founder refers to this technique as their "secret recipe".
In the outskirts of Gothenburg, at the factory, the slender layers of wood undergo a process of bonding (glued) and compression to create the curved sections. These assembled pieces are transported to the site, where they are adhered together to form cylinders, subsequently stacked on one another to construct the tower.
Through the utilization of wood and adhesive, it becomes feasible to construct towers in smaller, more conveniently transported modules. This approach, they assert, will significantly simplify the construction of exceptionally tall towers and facilitate the transportation of components to challenging locations. Modvion has a patented solution, which enables transport on ordinary roads, with ordinary trucks.
Wood enables building higher towers at a lower cost, which makes wind power more efficient since winds are stronger and more stable higher up. That gives you more electricity from each permit to build wind turbines.
The wooden turbine from Modvion not only provides a sustainable alternative but also touts a carbon footprint that is negative in comparison to its steel counterparts. Modvion asserts that opting for wood over steel eradicates the carbon footprint of wind turbines entirely, turning them carbon negative. This is due to trees extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while alive, and when felled, the carbon becomes stored in the wood. The crucial point is that as long as the wood avoids rotting or combustion, the stored carbon remains sequestered. Modvion's tower, crafted from approximately 200 sustainably farmed spruce trees, underscores a dedication to responsible forestry practices.
In the future, Modvion envisions constructing even taller turbines and strives to establish a facility manufacturing 100 wooden modular turbines annually by 2027. Their ambitious goals, including a vision for 10% of global turbines to be wooden within a decade, align with the industry's increasing dedication to sustainable energy solutions.
Photos by Modvion