Finnish forest products company Stora Enso has teamed up with German wind power start-up Voodin Blade Technology to develop sustainable wind turbine blades from wood. Under a new partnership agreement signed last week, the pair have committed to developing sustainable alternatives for wind turbine blades and creating a reliable supply chain; they aim to install a 20m blade on a 0.5MW turbine near Warburg, Germany, by the end of 2022, and have plans for an 80m blade. 

Typically, wind turbine blades are made of fibreglass and carbon fibre, which are energy-intensive, non-renewable plastics made from petrochemicals that cannot be easily recycled. As a result, tens of thousands of ageing blades end up in landfills. By developing blades from sustainable wood, the two companies aim to make the blades lighter and reduce overall dependency on fossil fuel extraction. 

Wood wind turbine blades would be lighter and less reliant on fossil fuel extraction. (Photo by Westend61 via Getty Images)

Stora Enso will supply “100% sustainable wood” for the new blades. The first 20m blade will be made using Stora Enso’s LVL, a mass timber product that has a high load-bearing capacity that can support large-scale rotary blades. Unlike steel and concrete, LVL is relatively lightweight to transport on-site without heavy-duty equipment. It is also a renewable material with a minimal carbon footprint. The company recently partnered with wood technology company Modvion to promote the use of wood in wind turbine towers too.  

“With the current energy crisis and ambitious decarbonisation goals, wind energy has never been more in demand,” said Lars Völkel, executive vice-president, wood products division, Stora Enso, in a statement. “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.”

“The wind industry as a key driver towards carbon neutrality needs to become 100% sustainable and environmentally friendly,” added Joachim Knapp, mechanical engineer and automation expert with Voodin Blades, in a statement. “With the installation of the 20-metre 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.” 

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