Image: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons.
Home » It’s an ill wind …?

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

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that international plant science journal for almost 10 years. As a freelance plant science communicator I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Plant Cuttings [] (and formerly at Botany One []). In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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