Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wooden Turbines

Floating tidal turbine with wooden blades
Norwegian company Hydra Tidal plans to test a tidal turbine next month. While many are pursuing different kinds of tidal energy devices, this one is unique for its turbine blades made of wood. Says company founder and R&D director Svein D. Henriksen:
“Wood is a porous, homogeneous material — so it has better mechanical and hydrological characteristics than today’s conventional materials such as composites and steel. The major challenge is the actual assembly process, but we believe we have found a good solution.” He points out that using wood in turbine blades is also an environmentally sound choice, especially in a lifecycle perspective.
That wood is porous doesn't seem very significant, especially since the pine they plan to use is laminated. Many other materials are "homogeneous" too and the lifecycle advantages are rather minor. At 23 meters long, blade durability may be an issue too, and frequent replacement of weaker blades is no lifecycle or environmental boon. The allegedly better mechanical and hydrological aspects are not further described.

The plan to use floating deployment (as Hydrovolts does) is smart as it is faster, simpler, much cheaper, and doesn't need specialized boats. Still, the technology itself doesn't seem particularly different otherwise, apart from the wooden blades. So, why wood?
80% of the [turbine] can be recycled after its life span, which is more than 30 years. For example, our turbines are made out of glued wood. This material can handle tough ocean environments and they last very long. After the turbines' life end, they can be chopped and used in a bio energy power plant for example.

Hydra Tidal has, in cooperation with Harstad University College and Kunnskapsparken Nord AS(Science/Competence park), made a report about CO2 emissions in connection with the production of a complete Morild power plant. CO2 emissions are 40% lower than that of onshore wind power.
They've done some very clever things in Norway with renewable energy, so it will be worth watching to see how this turns out.
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