Plant Cuttings

It’s an ill wind …?

Image: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons.

Wood (aka ‘the really hard stuff inside trees’) is as ancient a building material and engineering solution as they come, but new uses are still being found for timber in the most unlikely of applications. Take for instance wind- and water-powered turbines. Loved and hated in equal measure, they are often proposed as an environmentally friendly, sustainable way to reduce our dependence upon non-renewable fossil fuels by turning air and water currents into electricity. What may help to tip the balance in their favour is news that Hydra Tidal Energy Technology AS (a Norwegian company that aims to develop competitive technology solutions for electricity production from low-speed water currents) is to use laminated pine for their turbines’ blades.

Hydra Tidal will install a full-scale (1.5-MW) prototype of its tidal energy plant at Gimsøystraumen, a marine channel in Norway’s Nordland County. The Morild floating power plant will be moored to the seabed and mostly submerged, with turbine wings spanning a diameter of 23 metres and deployed in July 2010. Wood has not been used in modern turbine blade designs for decades. But company founder and R&D Director Svein D. Henriksen extols the virtues of wood for such applications, ‘Wood is a porous, homogenous material – so it has better mechanical and hydrological characteristics than today’s conventional materials such as composites and steel’.

Furthermore, using wood in turbine blades is also an environmentally sound choice (and won’t hurt the company’s image, either). All of which also goes to prove the old adage that what goes around comes around. Find out more at

Nigel Chaffey