Wooden Windmills From Swedish Startup Promise Easier Mobility

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May. 23 2019, Updated 11:58 p.m. ET

Have you ever seen how massive wind turbines are up close? The most frequent turbine from GE that has a capacity of 1.5 megawatts has blades that stretch out to 116 feet and are attached to a 212-foot tower. Some can reach over 400 feet combined, and they’ll only get bigger as time goes on. It’s getting very hard to transport them, which is why one company is creating wooden turbines that are assembled on-site.

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Modvion, a Swedish startup, will be creating wooden towers that can be assembled after being transported. While the blades are huge, the towers remain the biggest part of the turbine. The reason for having a wooden tower is they will be 30 percent cheaper to manufacture when compared to the alternatives.

According to Bloomberg, onshore wind generation is already one of the cheapest renewable power sources. It’s right down there with solar photovoltaic cells and is much cheaper than natural gas. The tower itself is roughly 12 percent of a wind turbine’s total cost. Modvion hopes to address that issue along with the growing wind industry.

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As it stands, our main roads don’t support the transportation of wind turbines. Towers have thickened walls for increased safety, which has led to additional steel and more weight to haul. Heavier loads in trucks lead to more gas being needed to move the product around. Another solution has been further disassembling wind turbines, but this leads to longer times to install wind farms and there’s an easier chance for malfunction.

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Another problem has been keeping the towers short for easier transport. The startup believes that this has affected capacity by up to 50 percent. With a stackable tower that can be assembled easily at the site, capacity wouldn’t be affected and the product could be shipped with standard trucks.

Modvion states on their website that this impact would feature “200 percent increases of wind energy in the US and Europe, equal to the removal of 145 million cars in terms of [carbon dioxide] reduction.” By using the wooden towers, they would cost $200,000 less to make and reduces 719 tons of CO2 emissions.

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Initial plans are to create a near 100-foot prototype with an estimated completion time in 2019. A tower that extends all the way to a whopping 500 feet would be completed in the following year. They are currently working with local utility companies in Sweden for more funding and have raised around $2 million US so far.  

Essentially, this new transport solution for wind turbines would extend the industry’s reach. There are some roads that current turbines simply can’t be delivered to. Modvion’s managing director, Otto Lundman, told Bloomberg that “higher towers will enable ‘higher wind speeds and larger rotor blades, we can therefore increase the production of electricity.’”

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