Modvion is a Swedish company that specializes in structures made with cross laminated timber. Recently, it has turned its attention to building towers for wind turbines. “As wind towers rise above 100 meters in height, transportation poses considerable problems given that base diameters for 100+ meter towers exceed 4.3 meters, the limit for transport width in most parts of the USA and the EU,” the company says on its website.
CLT construction is lighter and stronger than steel, which permits a narrower base for tall towers. The company’s modular construction also means the towers can be shipped in sections that are assembled onsite, eliminating many transportation issues associated with tall steel pylons.
“Additionally, conventional steel tower constructions get dramatically more expensive with height due to the increasing need for thicker walls. In order to make significant returns on wind technology investments, organizations will need to drastically improve both costs and efficiency.
“Our current area of focus is in wind tower technology. ‘[Our] patented module technology enables significantly decreased cost, efficient transportation and streamlined installation of towers exceeding 120 m. Ultimately, this results in increased cost efficiency in the harvesting of wind resources.” Not only that, CLT structures sequester the carbon contained in the wood for generations.
Recently, Modvion completed a 30-meter high CLT tower on the island of Björkö near Gothenburg, which will be used for research purposes. According to Renewable Energy Magazine, the company has signed declarations of intent with Varberg Energi for a 110-meter high tower and with Rabbalshede Kraft for 10 towers, at least 150 meters high. Both are expected to be completed by 2022.
“This is a major breakthrough that paves the way for the next generation of wind turbines. Laminated wood is stronger than steel at the same weight and by building in modules, the wind turbines can be taller. By building in wood, we also reduce carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing and instead store carbon dioxide in the design,” says Otto Lundman, CEO of Modvion.
The test tower was constructed in cooperation with Moelven, a company that specializes in CLT technology, at its factory in Töreboda. “Wood has fantastic properties and we need to build much more in wood if we are to meet the climate goals. For us, it is hugely inspiring to participate in this pilot project where we have been able to use renewable wood in a design for the production of renewable energy,” says Johan Åhlén, CEO of Moelven.
The CLT towers cost significantly less than a comparable steel tower, which lowers the cost of wind power right from the start while also reducing carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. The experimental tower was constructed for the Swedish Wind Power Technology Center at Chalmers.
“Wind power is expected to be the EU’s largest power source as early as 2027. With wind towers in wood, we get even more climate-smarter renewable electricity to face the climate crisis,” says Ola Carlson, director of the Swedish Wind Power Technology Center and assistant professor of renewable power generation.
Not only are CLT towers less expensive than steel, their modular design means the cost of getting them to the job site is lower as well. Any money saved in the construction of a wind turbine tower means the cost of the renewable electricity generated will be that much lower, putting further price pressure on those making electricity by burning fossil fuels or splitting atoms.
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