Winds of change – Modvion

“The fact that something has not been done before, does not mean it can’t be done at all” – (Modvion)

Modvion, founded in 2015, is the brainchild of two engineers, Joakim Orneblad and Otto Lundman, who graduated from Chalmers University’s MSc in Entrepreneurship and Business Design. This is an action learning postgraduate degree programme that allows students to work on either simulated businesses or real technological innovations and business projects. Joakim and Otto’s business, Modvion is based on patented, disruptive technology that will revolutionise the wind turbine industry. Traditionally wind turbines have been built out of steel and concrete that are heavy and account for about 15% of the planet’s CO2 emissions. Of perhaps even more significance is the fact that they are difficult to transport which not only increases their cost but limits their size, particularly their height. This means that they do not capture the stronger, more consistent winds found at higher altitudes.

So, according to Otto he and Joakim are “bringing to market the next generation of tall towers in engineered wood, nature’s own carbon fibre”.   Modvion towers are built of 16-24 metre cylindrical laminated veneer lumber modules which are manufactured in a factory, transported by road to the site and then assembled by crane on site. They can be built taller than the traditional steel and concrete towers because being constructed on site the width of their base can be wider than with a traditional tower as road transport is not the problem it is with the traditional tower. This means that the height of the tower can increase from around 94 metres (308 feet) to 150 metres (492 feet) and above. Not only can the tower benefit from the stronger winds but it can hold a larger turbine and produce more energy at a lower cost. Additionally, the wooden construction reduces the carbon footprint for the tower by 25% and as the wood is storing carbon the tower actually reduces and stores more CO2 than it emits. Just like the traditional tower, the wooden tower has at least a 25-30 year life span, possibly longer, but unlike the traditional tower   it can be recycled on decommissioning – as high-strength beams for the building industry, thereby storing carbon for perhaps hundreds of years more. The wood is sourced from the Scandinavia spruce forests in which reforestation exceeds logging.

In partnership with truss manufacturer Moelven Toreboda AB, Modvion erected the world’s first wooden tower for wind turbines on Bjorko Island off the Swedish Coast at Gothenburg in May 2020. The 30 metre tower is to be used for research purposes but already Varberg Energi, pioneers in both wind and solar energy, has indicated that it intends to purchase Modvion’s  first commercial scale 110 metre tower, while in  January 2021 Vestas, the global leader in sustainable energy solutions,  invested in the venture. As the senior Vice President and Head of Innovation and Concepts at Vestas, Bo Svoldgaard, said “Our collaboration with Modvion holds significant potential to help accelerate the energy transition and increase Vestas’ sustainability performance”. At the same time Vestas’ investment will support Modvion’s planned scaling.

Still only small the venture employs a team of 30 with a 6 person management team supported by a 3 person technical council, an experienced Board of 7 and a 5 person advisory board. It has raised some $674,700 in funding and has 4 investors with Vestas Ventures as the lead investor. In 2020 the business received €6.5 million in funding from the highly competitive European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund to help build its first factory.  €2.4 million of this was in the form of grants and the remaining €4.1 million as equity. In September 2022, Modvion won the Clean Energy Category in Germany’s Start UP Energy Transition competition and on    Wednesday 23rd November 2022, it won the renewable Energy category in Sweden’s E-prize competition, the country’s biggest competition for the energy sector. The Jury chose Modvion because “With a high level of innovation and the help of the Swedish forest, they raise sustainability as high as the skies for the leading form of renewable energy”.

While Modvion is concerned to address both SDGs 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 13 (Climate Action), it also addresses 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and, importantly, 17 (Partnerships to achieve the goal). Once it goes into commercial production, undoubtedly it will also contribute to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

© / Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd. (2020-2023). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author(s) noted is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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