Wooden Wind Turbine Towers Promise to Cut a Carbon Footprint

One of the many complaints we hear about wind turbines from fossil fuel enthusiasts is that turbines have a high carbon footprint – thanks in part to the steel in their towers – so it’s counterintuitive to invest in them. The well-known predecessor of US President Joe Biden once complained, “The smoke coming up, if you’re a believer in carbon emissions, the smoke coming to make these massive windmills is more than anything we’re talking about with natural gas, which is very clean.” In fact, life cycle analyzes give wind turbines a carbon footprint of an average of 11 grams per kilowatt-hour — 30% of which comes from the steel tower. (Natural gas is 450 grams per kilowatt-hour of combustion alone.)

Now, Stora Enso, one of the world’s oldest and largest timber companies, is working with a Swedish tower builder. Modvion build wind turbine towers from laminated wood (LVL). Otto Lundman, CEO of Modvion, said in a statement: “To solve the climate crisis, we need more renewable energy as well as increased use of sustainable, wooden constructions. Together with Stora Enso, we can make both possible. ”


Prototype of the 30-meter turbine tower.

Modvion


Treehugger covered the Modvion wooden tower towers a few years ago when it was in the early prototype stage, but the project progressed significantly. Modvion completed 30-meter (100-foot) prototype in 2020 and is now working on a 100-meter (330-foot) tower by Varberg Energi. Now it turns out to be giant curved slabs of LVL that will be glued into tubular sections on site. This is a major advantage over steel towers, which are usually giant cylinders that are difficult to transport and do not fit under bridges.

Modvion


The Scandinavian spruce provided by Stora Enso is certified under FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Forest Certification Support Program) standards. The carbon savings are significant: Modvion states that the lifecycle emissions of a 360-foot steel tower are about 1,250 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) while a wood tower has 90% less emissions, at 125 tons.

And that’s without credit for any carbon storage in the wood, which they are particularly responsible for:

“Considering that the wooden tower also stores carbon dioxide, the actual climatic impact of the tower is lower. Wooden construction stores about 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of wood. A 110m high tower weighs 180–300 tons, depending on the size of the This means a storage capacity of 540 tonnes of carbon dioxide and a net climate effect of minus 300-400 tons of carbon dioxide. “

As we mention every time we talk about wood, the question of how much CO2 is stored in wooden construction is controversial. The CO2 savings from steel replacement are not, and they reduce the life cycle operating costs of the wind turbine by 30%.

Modvion


Modvion describes how strong LVL towers are, cleverly calling laminated wood “nature’s own carbon fiber, which is stronger than steel at the equivalent weight.” They also note that wooden towers do not have 50,000 steel bars that all need to be inspected:

“Laminated wood has three major advantages over steel: Wood has a higher specific strength that allows for lighter construction. Tall steel towers need extra compulsion to carry their own weight — which wooden towers don’t need. And finally, modular steel towers require. a vast number of bolts that need regular inspections during our modular wooden towers are glued together. “

It would be thought that wooden towers would also need regular inspections, especially when it comes to moisture issues. Modvion explains that its towers are covered with thick paint that makes them waterproof. It adds, “This creates a controlled volume of air inside that interacts with the solid wood volume. The stable system maintains a healthy margin to any moisture issues.”

Modvion


Modvion quotes an International Energy Agency Report this predicts that the market for wind turbines could be as big as 30,000 a year to reach net zero by 2050. With one prototype completed and the second tower on the way, they will have to step up a bit to get a piece of it. action, but this remains another excellent demonstration of how engineered wood can replace steel and reduce carbon emissions.

And all those climate criminals and wind skeptics will have one less stupid argument.

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