The wind power industry is tackling its waste problem

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The wind power industry is tackling its waste problem

The wind power industry is tackling its waste problem

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Industry leaders and academics are working on technology that would make it possible to recycle huge wind turbine blades
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • January 18, 2022

    The wind power industry is developing the technologies needed to recycle wind turbine blades. While wind power contributes significantly to the generation of green energy, wind turbines themselves have their own recycling and waste management challenges.

    Fortunately, companies like Vestas, from Denmark, have developed a new technology that will make it possible to recycle wind turbine blades.

    Wind power recycling context

    Conventional wind turbine blades are made of layers of fiberglass and balsa wood bonded together with an epoxy thermoset resin. The resulting blades represent the 15 percent of a wind turbine that cannot be recycled and may end up as waste in landfills. Vestas, in collaboration with industry and academic leaders, has developed a process whereby thermoset composites are broken down into fiber and epoxy. Through another process, the epoxy is broken down further into a material that can be used to make new turbine blades.

    Traditionally, heat is used to bond the layers together and create the correct shape for blades to operate properly. One of the new processes currently under development uses a thermoplastic resin that can be shaped and hardened at room temperature. These blades can be recycled by melting them and reshaping them into new blades.

    The wind industry in the US is also looking at the possibility of repurposing used blades.

    Disruptive impact 

    If companies can succeed in finding a way to recycle colossal wind turbine blades, it would considerably reduce the wind energy industry‚Äôs waste that ends up in landfill sites. 

    The use of recycled blades could also bring down the cost of producing green wind power, which may be an attractive incentive for investors, leading to more investment in wind power, accelerating onshore and offshore wind power generation around the world.

    Repurposed used turbine blades could become pedestrian bridges, bus stop shelters, public benches, and playground equipment, to mention a few possibilities.  

    Applications for wind power recycling

    Wind power recycling technologies can be used to:

    • Reduce waste in the wind power industry.
    • Create new wind turbine blades from old ones and save costs for the wind industry.
    • Help resolve recycling challenges in other industries that use thermoset composites in their manufacturing processes, such as aviation and boating.
    • To create structures from recycled blades like park benches and playground equipment.

    Question to comment on

    • Why does the average citizen not give a thought to whether wind turbines are recyclable or not?
    • Should the manufacturing process of wind turbine blades be changed to make them more recyclable? 

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: