Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Jason Blackeye)

Most people are aware that renewable energy plants are being developed to achieve decarbonisation goals, but their energy production does produce emissions. One company has come up with a way to make wind turbines an even greener technology. Believe it or not, instead of using steel and concrete, they are making wind turbines out of wood and claim they could become an important part of the next generation of wind energy.

The wooden construction is based on a tower made from laminated wood. In order to keep moisture out of the tower, the wood is coated with a thick waterproof paint. Currently, such wind turbines are produced for land use, but with additional improvements, they could be installed in the water in the future.

Several questions could be raised regarding these wooden structures including how safe are they from frequent wildfires? The solution to this problem lies in the very density of the logs because the tower is made from solid wood and it is very difficult to catch fire. Direct exposure to fire would cause charring and, as stated, at a very controlled rate. On the other hand, steel becomes soft when exposed to high temperatures, which is why a wooden structure could also have better structural strength.

Currently, the height of the towers ranges between 150 and 200 metres, but they have the potential to become even higher.

An even greener technology

How much greener these wind turbines are compared to the usual steel ones is shown by the data on carbon dioxide emissions during their lifetime. Namely, the emissions of a typical wind turbine with a height of 110 metres amount to about 1,250 tonnes. On the other hand, wooden ones emit up to 90 per cent less.

It is also important to note the sustainable harvesting of the trees used to make the towers. The trees for these purposes are sourced from sustainably managed forests that are certified for the reforestation programme.

Certain renewable energy sources have been criticized because nobody has figured out as yet how to sustainably manage them once they become waste. The circular economy has drawn a lot of attention in recent years, which is why more work is being done on resolving the mentioned problem. Thanks to the wooden construction, which allows the tower to be dismantled more easily, this material can be used subsequently in the construction industry as beams of high quality and strength.

Honestly, I was sceptical when I came across the information about wooden wind turbines, but with all the existing performances, which will be further improved in the future, this green solution could become an integral part of wind energy’s future.

Katarina Vuinac