Reaching new heights with wood: Wooden wind turbine towers by Modvion

Modvion’s first project in Björkö, Sweden

By Yap Shi Quan

Wood has gained mainstream appeal as mass timber in the construction industry in recent years, but unexpectedly, the material has also become a viable alternative to traditional materials like steel and concrete in other industries. For one, plywood is used to make what is reportedly the first wooden satellite called WISA Woodsat, launched in 2021. And now, wind turbine towers are also being constructed using engineered wood, specifically laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

The company behind this turbine tower innovation is Modvion, founded by David Olivegren and co-founded by Otto Lundman and Joakim Örneblad. According to Lundman, who is also the CEO of Modvion, Olivegren had first seen wooden wind power towers in Germany. But equipped with experience in building boats and working with architecture, he had a better idea on how to construct better wooden towers — hence Modvion.

The very first project the company had embarked on was a 30m-tall prototype tower on the island of Björkö, Sweden, just outside of Gothenburg. “That tower made people believe in our vision and made the idea real,” said Lundman. “It also attracted the attention of one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers, namely Vestas, who have since become shareholders of Modvion. Björkö will always be important for us.”

Modvion has come a long way since then. Currently, they are building their first commercial building, which will be ready in 2023. The turbine tower will be 100m tall, reaching a total height of 150m when including the turbine and the blades. Lundman elaborated: “This will be the first tower from our new production line, which will then proceed to build an even taller tower to support a larger turbine of around 6mW, which is where we will sell larger volumes. That tower will be for turbines around 250m tall.”

Besides projects, Modvion recently teamed up with Stora Enso, one of the biggest industry players, especially in mass timber and sustainability solutions. Lundman commented that both companies have signed a letter of intent and they are currently exploring possibilities. What exactly both partners will bring to the table, however, is still unclear as details are still “being finalised”.

Test modules of the wooden turbine tower, made with LVL

The strength of wood

Traditionally most structures in the world, especially tall structures, are built with steel and concrete, since both materials are robust and durable, and can withstand damages from the climate. In contrast, wood is seen as weaker, susceptible to climate changes.

But wood technology has caught up, with engineered wood able to rival steel in terms of strength and durability. Modvion’s wind turbine towers are built with LVL, which is stronger than steel proportionate to its weight. Lundman explained that this is an advantage, especially when the construction industry is demanding taller and taller buildings.

Curious to know more? Click here to read on in Issue 2, 2022 of Wood in Architecture.