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World-first wooden wind turbine starts spinning in Germany

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November 14, 2012

The prototype TimberTower constructed in Hannover, Germany

The prototype TimberTower constructed in Hannover, Germany

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Getting a wind turbine to a decent height to allow it to reach stronger winds than those found closer to the ground generally means sitting them atop a tower. Despite the eco-credentials of wind turbines, these towers are usually constructed from steel, which is not only expensive, but requires large amounts of energy to process. In an effort to make wind turbines even greener, German company TimberTower has erected a wooden 1.5-MW wind turbine in Hannover, Germany.

The TimberTower starts as a linked system of glued laminated timber panels and surface components that are manufactured off-site and transported in 12 m (40 ft) containers for on-site assembly into a hollow octagonal tower. The finished prototype tower measures 100 m (328 ft) high, integrates a ladder and lift system, and is topped off with a Vensys 77 wind turbine. The turbine has a rotor diameter of 77 m (252.6 ft), weighs almost 100 tons (91 tonnes) and generates 1,500 kW of electricity.

TimberTower says the mass and diameter of the tower’s base is identical to that of a tubular steel tower and that all raw materials used in the tower come from FSC and PEFC certified suppliers. In addition to an octagonal cross section, the hollow body can also be constructed with a hexagonal or dodecagonal cross section. The company says the TimberTower system should support hub heights of up to 200 m (656 ft) and is currently in the process of developing a 140 m (459 ft) tower.

The TimberTower under construction

With a guaranteed minimum life span of 20 years, the TimberTower also meets current insurability, certification and fire protection regulations. The company claims one 100 m TimberTower saves about 300 tons (272 tonnes) of sheet steel and, thanks to a treatment process that consumes less energy, approximately 400 tons (363 tonnes) of CO2. And after it reaches the end of its working life, the wooden tower can be easily recycled.

With ground broken on the Hannover site in January, the prototype TimberTower was completed earlier this month. It is currently undergoing testing, but should be connected to the power grid by the end of the year.

Source: TimberTower via Designbuildsource

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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12 Comments

Looks good to me- glue-laminated wood (gluelam for short) is a very strong and durable material, and a 20 year lifespan seems reasonable, especially as wind turbine technology is not yet mature, with ever more efficient models in the pipeline.

Its a shame they painted parts of it white and have not left the natural beauty of the wood to show- that might go some way towards gaining acceptance amongst the nimbies who oppose wind technology.

bergamot69
14th November, 2012 @ 02:25 am PST

Seems like a bunch of nonsense. 20 years life expectancy? What's the life expectancy on a steel tower? my guess is that it's at least 50 years if not more.

Also, "And after it reaches the end of its working life, the wooden tower can be easily recycled."? What are you going to do with a bunch of 20 year old laminated wood? Composting it isn't recycling. Steel on the other hand can be recycled indefinitely.

Siegfried Gust
14th November, 2012 @ 03:24 am PST

re; bergamot69

Making the tower more attractive does not alter the base complainant that the wind turbines destroy the natural look of the land. Personally I like how the wind turbines look.

The problem with wind energy is conceptual. The problem perhaps was not caused by subsidies but certainly it was encouraged. A wind turbine is incapable of generating power on a continuous basis; wind is not that reliable. But with subsidies or merely must buy laws wind turbine producers have simply gone for more power and mechanical reliability instead of working to produce reliable on demand electrical power.

Slowburn
14th November, 2012 @ 07:58 am PST

Not the right way to do this. Far better is build 2 1/2 round sides and glue them together and forget all that interior labor/ parts.

This by making it as a tube would make it stronger. lighter and cheaper and less likely to have problems as the load is well distributed though out the shell.

You can't do the wood finish clear because of sun damage to the clear coating which won't last 2 yrs and less than 1 here in Fla.

I build wood/epoxy wind generators, boats and EV's among other things. Though on the wind gens wood is now limited to the tower as my blades need to be made from composites to be variable pitch without extra parts..

jerryd
14th November, 2012 @ 11:12 am PST

Check out otherpower.com

The site has several examples of homebuilt turbines with hand (and chainsaw) carved blades with rather complex shapes that have proved to be quite efficient. They've also made the alternators using coiled wire and super high strength permanent magnets.

An easier and faster way to make the blades would be to make one as a master pattern then build an extra long CopyCarver to mill more that're identical.

Gregg Eshelman
14th November, 2012 @ 12:42 pm PST

Hardly the first Wooden Wind turbine tower....

Possibly the first Utility Grade Wood-derived wind turbine tower.

Once the wood is laminated and glued, it is also hard to describe that as Sustainable, or wood. Laminating with plastic resins makes it well.. FRP (Fibre reinforced polymer / (plastic) ). It is also likely to be, Non recyclable, non sustainable and the claims of saving so-much CO2 are merely hot air, on a lifecycle analysis, over a fixed period, you may just find that the steel tower is more recyclable (certainly) and produces less CO2... As the steel tower (or other equivalent material) could have a longer life expectancy.... Have they compared the lifecycle cost, weight and CO2 of a GFRP, or CFRP tower.... (Im sure they have, but that doesn't grab the public imagination as much as wood.....

Wow this saves 30 Tonnes of steel, but how much wood does it use?? How many trees were "butchered" for this piece of art..... (I don't really care about the trees, they re-grow in 100 or 200 years...Would be good to se if they can make this last for the time taken to regrow useful timber bearing trees (not just pulp-wood)...)

MD
14th November, 2012 @ 03:22 pm PST

Who built the crane? I want one.

Zappenfusen
14th November, 2012 @ 06:02 pm PST

What precautions have been taken in the event of a lightning storm ?

Maneesh Nair
14th November, 2012 @ 09:36 pm PST

"World's first?" Wait, what about all the old wind mills from hundreds of years ago? Aren't those all wooden?

sk8dad
15th November, 2012 @ 12:31 pm PST

In order for wind power to be both dependable, and sustainable, they would need to be installed around Congress and Washington DC. They could power the entire eastern coast.

kellory
15th November, 2012 @ 06:38 pm PST

Slowburn & MD are dead right.

Also the article says steel is expensive but never actually says that this timber construction is cheaper.

If it's my money being invested I will take steel please. It is wonderfully recyclable and really does last a long time between uses. I suspect if an independent study was done the timber tower would lose out in most categories to steel.

Nice try, but next time let basic economics drive your decision making and the result will be better. One more thing: would a steel tower be less thick and would it weigh less or more?

Dr. Veritas
15th November, 2012 @ 07:15 pm PST

Compressed air is apparently a good energy storage medium.

I'd guess this needs a big tank to store it in.

Tanks I've seen are normally tubular steel contraptions.

Hmm.

Wait a sec.

What's the shape of the tower?

So yes... wood seems silly. It's going to fall apart twice as fast as steel, it's nowhere near as useful, and lets get serious - it's going to get burned or buried, not recycled.

christopher
17th November, 2012 @ 03:40 pm PST
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