Sustainable Wooden Wind Turbine Blades Being Developed
Two companies are collaborating to make wind turbines more sustainable. Stora Enso, a biomaterials and wood construction company, and Voodin Blade Technology GmbH, a startup in Germany developing rotor blades for wind turbines, have partnered to create wooden wind turbine blades.
The wooden turbine blades are meant to replace heavier wind turbine blades made from non-renewable materials. Most traditional wind turbine blades are made from fiberglass and carbon fiber, which are both forms of plastic sourced from fossil fuels.
Once the blades reach the end of their lifespan, they are usually sent to landfills because they are difficult to recycle. The large size of wind turbine blades and their durable, composite materials make them challenging to recycle, so many go to landfills or are incinerated. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, wind turbine blades last about 25 years. One study estimates that the number of wind turbine blades wasted globally could reach 43 million metric tons by 2050 as more nations increase their reliance on renewable energy sources.
“With the current energy crisis and ambitious decarbonisation goals, wind energy has never been more in demand. Through this partnership with Voodin Blades we further accelerate our ability to develop a sustainable and competitive supply chain for the growing market of wind turbine blades,” Lars Völkel, executive vice president of the Wood Products Division for Stora Enso, said in a statement.
The first wood blade will be made with laminated veneer lumber (LVL) provided by Stora Enso. The LVL is a mass timber product with high load-bearing capacity and durability to withstand the elements. It is lighter in weight than steel and concrete, making it easier to transport and install without heavy equipment. The initial 20-meter blade is to be installed on a 0.5 megawatt wind turbine in Germany before the end of the year, and the companies are working on a larger, 80-meter blade as well.
“The wind industry as a key driver towards carbon neutrality needs to become 100% sustainable and environmentally friendly,” said Joachim Knapp, mechanical engineer and automation expert with Voodin Blades. “With the installation of the 20 m blade, we are opening a path towards a more sustainable future. In time we will start to develop and manufacture blades for future multi-megawatt turbines.”
Stora Enso has previously worked with Modvion to create more sustainable wooden towers for wind turbines, which could reduce a wind turbine’s emissions by up to an estimated 90%. Other companies, like Global Fiberglass Solutions (GFS) and G.E., are also working on ways to recycle existing wind turbine blades made from plastic composites.