To improve the sustainability of wind turbines, two businesses are working together. In order to produce wooden wind turbine blades, Voodin Blade Technology GmbH, a startup in Germany creating rotor blades for wind turbines, and Stora Enso, a biomaterials and wood construction company, have teamed.
The heavier wind turbine blades constructed of non-renewable materials are to be replaced by lighter wooden blades. The majority of conventional wind turbine blades are constructed of fiberglass and carbon fiber, both of which are plastic materials derived from fossil fuels.
Since they are difficult to recycle, once the blades have reached the end of their useful life, they are often disposed of in landfills. Due to their size and the difficulty in recycling their strong composite materials, wind turbine blades frequently end up in landfills or are burned.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the lifespan of wind turbine blades is 25 years. As many countries rely more on renewable energy sources, one study predicts that the amount of wind turbine blades discarded globally could reach 43 million metric tonnes by 2050.
Wind energy has never been more in demand due to the current energy crisis and aggressive decarbonization ambitions. According to Lars Välkel, executive vice president of Stora Enso’s Wood Products Division, “with this relationship with Voodin Blades, we further accelerate our capacity to build a sustainable and competitive supply chain for the rising market for wind turbine blades.”
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Stora Enso’s laminated veneer lumber (LVL) will be used to create the first wooden blade. The LVL is a mass-produced wood product with a high load-bearing capacity and weather resistance. Because it weighs less than steel and concrete, it is simpler to transport and install without the use of large machinery. Before the end of the year, a 20-meter blade will be mounted on a 0.5-megawatt wind turbine in Germany. The businesses are also developing an 80-meter blade.
According to Joachim Knapp, mechanical engineer and automation specialist with Voodin Blades, the wind sector must become completely sustainable and ecologically benign if it is to play a significant role in the transition to carbon neutrality. With the installation of the 20-meter blade, we are paving the way for a future that is more sustainable. We will eventually begin designing and producing blades for upcoming multi-megawatt turbines.
Previously, Stora Enso and Modvion collaborated to develop more environmentally friendly wooden wind turbine towers that have the potential to cut emissions from wind turbines by as much as 90%. Other businesses, such as Global Fiberglass Solutions (GFS) and G.E., are also looking into ways to recycle used plastic composite wind turbine blades.