Bloomberg News

Germany’s Tilt at Windmills Ditches Steel for 1,000-Tree Tower

December 20, 2012

A German wind-power developer has opened the world’s tallest wooden turbine tower, rejecting the use of modern steel and concrete for a construction made from 1,000 spruce trees, used for centuries in traditional windmills.

TimberTower GmbH plans to sell the towers, which are more sustainable than those made from typical materials, majority shareholder Edwin Kohl said. The 100-meter (330 foot) prototype tower, costing about 5 million euros ($6.6 million) to develop, is topped by a 1.5-megawatt Vensys Energie AG generator.

“It combines wood with high-tech,” Kohl said today as the company started up the generator in Hanover. “It’s a technology that’s much more sustainable than concrete and steel.”

The tower could be produced at a cost equal to or lower than competing technologies as early as next year, he said.

The company is in talks with wind farm developers about selling towers that can be built as high as about 200 meters, Kohl said. German forests are growing enough to provide wood to build 1,000 towers about every two days, he said.

TimberTower is among companies seeking to profit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to shift to renewable power from nuclear in the biggest energy-infrastructure overhaul since World War II. Their task is to fill the energy shortfall when atomic plants that accounted for about 20 percent of Germany’s power early last year go offline within a decade.

“This project has an incredible innovation potential” that could benefit the economy as it seeks to transform its energy mix and take a lead on sustainable technology, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said at today’s event.

Traditional water-pumping and granary windmills have been built from wood including spruce, pine, elm and cedar, according to “A Field Guide to American Windmills” by T. Lindsay Baker. The American designs were brought from Europe, Baker wrote in an article for the website of the quarterly Windmillers’ Gazette.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stefan Nicola in Berlin at snicola2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net


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