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Technology | Trademarks | Patents

Modvion – Wind Power Riding High

The wind power of the future will require installations higher than what is currently possible. Leading the development is Modvion, a Swedish company whose patents for modular wooden towers are tailored for the next generation of wind turbines. They recently inaugurated the world’s tallest wind turbine equipped with a wooden tower outside Skara in Västra Götaland.

The technical development of wind turbines is making them more efficient but also larger. The trends are consistently upwards, and the average output is expected to exceed 5MW per installed turbine over the 2020s.

Larger turbines require a greater rotor diameter, and a larger rotor diameter means the turbine needs to be higher up in the air. However, that’s not the only reason for aiming higher, explains Modvion's Head of Operations, Pär Hallgren.

Portrait of Pär Hallgren, Head of Operations
Pär Hallgren, Head of Operations

– A major reason is that the average wind speed increases the higher up you go, and you avoid disturbances from ground turbulence. The higher up, the more electricity production per installed turbine.

Easier Transportation

Instead of 100-metre towers, the wind turbines of the future will be 150–200 metres tall. The high constructions place limitations on steel and concrete structures. The parts required become so large that they cannot be transported on ordinary roads, bridges, and tunnels. This is where Modvion steps in.

– The hollow glued laminated timber structure we’ve patented is lighter, stronger, and cheaper per metre. The parts are made of 3mm spruce veneer rotated in different fibre directions to achieve the correct strength while still being able to form into a cylindrical tower. They can be mass-produced in a factory and transported on regular lorries to the assembly site.

Modvion was founded in 2016, and Pär Hallgren has been involved since 2021. The architect, entrepreneur, and one of the founders, David Olivegren, became interested in constructing high structures using glued laminated timber technology. David brought his idea to Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship where he was assisted by master's students in exploring the technical possibilities and the feasibility of the business plan.

– The decision to use veneer-based wood material was made in the first year when it became clear that the idea had good technical and commercial viability in this market. However, we see Modvion as a wood technology company and see several possible uses for our technology. The advantage of wood as a renewable resource, apart from being able to build high, is that when the wind turbine is decommissioned, you can cut up the tower into glued laminated beams for use in buildings. When the building is then demolished, the glued laminated beams can become cardboard and paper. Thus, the fantastic wood fibre can be reused over a long time. In the meantime, more trees will have grown than were needed for the production of the original product.

Reduced Carbon Emissions

The renewable material means that carbon emissions from tower construction are reduced by more than 90% compared with steel structures.

In 2023, the world’s tallest wind turbine with a wooden tower was completed. It stands outside Skara and has a hub height of 105 metres. The tower is just over 5 metres in diameter at the bottom and 2.5 metres at the top.

– According to our calculations, we will be able to build much higher than that. Our goal is for the towers to be used in the most demanding installations on land and at sea. That’s where you benefit most from the wood technology.

IP Council Sends Ideas to the Agent

Denmark, a world leader in patent-related wind power technology, quickly noticed the technology, and Vestas has become a financier and shareholder. Something that likely wouldn’t have been possible if Modvion hadn’t early on had a strategy for, and focused on, its intangible assets.

– Modvion is a registered trademark. We also have eight approved patents and over ten in the application phase. These patents concern our application and manufacturing process. We try to capture as much value as possible from the work we put in.

How to dimension and the calculation models related to it are company secrets.

– We have an IP council that meets regularly and works together with one of the larger agency firms to determine what is patentable and what isn’t. It’s also important that we are aware so we do not infringe on others' patents.

Important for Investors and Customers

Modvion is a company that continues to need private investments and will have to carry out several rights issues to realise all ideas.

– Investors look at the value of the technology. Then our registered intangible assets are important to prove a value over time. The same goes for our customers. They want to be able to see that we have the right to use the technology and that Modvion is a long-term and sustainable company. They don’t want competitors to be able to copy the technology, which could affect our market potential moving forward.

The countries chosen for patent filings have been guided by several factors. Firstly, countries that are building or will build a significant amount of wind power and those with a large manufacturing industry have been selected. Countries with an established forestry industry have also been included, as the production of the modules will likely be situated near a sustainable wood industry.

– We started in Sweden with all our patent applications because we receive a relatively quick review and achieve a time and cost-effective process before we need to decide how to proceed with the PCT. It has been successful so far. We are in dialogue with our agent about whether the unitary patent in the EU might be interesting in the future, but for now, we start in Sweden.

The interview was made in 2024. Photo: Modvion

Three tips from Pär Hallgren:

If you're a technology-driven company – find a balance between what you patent and what you keep secret.

It's important to consider patents early. It's a bureaucratic process but creates enduring value that is recognised and appreciated. See it as a long-term investment.

Don't be afraid to apply for patents. If it doesn't feel right, you can withdraw the application. If it doesn't create value, withdraw it.