Eco Innovation

World’s first wooden wind turbine blades are now installed

2nd May 2024
Paige West

Voodin Blade Technology, a German manufacturer of wooden wind turbine blades, has announced the installation of the world's first prototype of its 19.3m wooden wind turbine blades.

These blades, made from laminated veneer lumber (LVL), have been mounted on an existing turbine in Breuna, Germany. LVL offers a more sustainable alternative to current materials, allowing for improved recyclability of blades, a high level of automation not feasible with existing materials, and enhanced flexibility.

Although wind energy is a renewable and sustainable resource, challenges remain in maximising its sustainability. The sector is expanding rapidly and is crucial in helping nations transition away from fossil fuels. Presently, up to 90% of a wind turbine can be recycled, except for the blades. Typically made from a mix of fibreglass and carbon fibre with epoxy resin, these materials are costly and challenging to decompose.

Wind turbine blades have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years, and as the first generation of blades nears the end of its service life, innovative and sustainable alternatives are essential. Voodin Blade Technology's use of LVL, a more sustainable material than the current composites, signifies a significant advancement. Unlike fibreglass and epoxy resin, which cannot be reused and are disposed of after decommissioning, wood offers a renewable solution that contributes to the ongoing sustainability of wind energy production.

“At the end of their lifecycle, most blades are buried in the ground or incinerated. This means that – at this pace – we will end up with 50 million tonnes of blade material waste by 2050. With our solution, we want to help green energy truly become as green as possible,” says Tom Siekmann, CEO at Voodin Blade Technology.

Voodin Blade Technology employs CNC milling machines adept at creating complex 3D shapes, which enhances the level of automation in blade production as no moulds are required. This automation not only increases manufacturing efficiency but also allows for the production of various blade types without the need for specific tooling.

With increased automation, the dependency on manual labour is reduced, which means that manufacturing does not have to be relegated to countries with lower labour costs, where it is often currently situated. Consequently, production can be located closer to wind farms, reducing both transportation costs and the emissions associated with long-distance transport.

Moreover, wood, particularly LVL, proves to be a highly durable material, surpassing the durability of the composite materials currently in use. Voodin Blade Technology has conducted extensive laboratory testing to confirm that their wooden blades can withstand the severe conditions typical of onshore wind energy production, which constitutes about 85% of the market.

“We have conducted hundreds of laboratory tests during the past two years to perfect the blade material. According to all our tests, our blades are even more durable than the existing fiberglass blades, as they show fewer fatigue characteristics and are proven to endure all kinds of onshore weather conditions extremely well,” explains Jorge Castillo, Co-Founder at Voodin Blade Technology.

The first prototype blades have been installed on an existing wind turbine in Breuna, Germany, near the city of Kassel. The company is building new prototypes, including bigger 60m and 80m blades, as a next step.

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