“Gamechanger” for Recycling Wind Turbine Blades

May 17, 2021

Wind Power Monthly:

Vestas and a team of epoxy producers and academic institutions have developed a new technological solution to recycle thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbine blades.

The partners – also including epoxy producer Olin, the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University –  aim to present a fully scoped solution to commercialise the technology within three years.

Today, between 85% and 90% of a wind turbine’s total mass can be recycled, with blades accounting for much of the deficit.

The partners describe their solution as “the final technological step towards a fully recyclable wind value chain”.

The group – known as Cetec (Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites) – has developed a two-step process for blade recycling.

First, thermoset composites are disassembled into fibre and epoxy.

Second, through a new process based on chemical reactions, the epoxy is further broken up into base components with qualities similar to the original materials. These materials can then be reintroduced into the manufacturing of new turbine blades.

Simon Frølich, team manager at the Danish Technological Institute, explained: “The key characteristic of composite materials is their unique combination of low weight and high strength.This is governed by the strong bonding of two different materials – fibre and epoxy. 

“The dilemma is that this strong bond is also the feature that renders these materials difficult to recycle. Therefore, the development of Cetec’s novel technology, enabling disassembly of the composite at end-of-life, is a gamechanger that will allow us to capture the value represented by each material stream in a new circular value chain.”

Several industry-academia groups are researching blade recycling for the wind industry, but no other team has publicly announced a solution.

The Cetec partners suggest that their solution could also be used in other industries that also rely on thermoset composite in production, such as automotive and aviation.

The project is joint-funded by by public-private investors Innovation Fund Denmark and by each of the participating partners. Vestas would not disclose how much each party was providing in funding.

Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, head of sustainability and advanced materials in Vestas’ innovation and concepts unit, added: “As global commitments to a net-zero future increase, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure the wind industry can scale sustainably, which includes Vestas fulfilling our ambition to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040. 

“Leveraging this new technological breakthrough in chemcycling epoxy resin, the Cetec project will be a significant milestone in Vestas’ journey towards achieving this goal, and in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning.”

If you run into a paywall, Reuters has the story below:

Reuters:

Wind turbine maker Vestas (VWS.CO) unveiled new technology on Monday which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades.

Turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050, according to a 2017 University of Cambridge study. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle.

The new technology will “be a significant milestone in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning,” Allan Poulsen, Vestas’ head of sustainability and advanced materials, said in a statement.

More at link.

3 Responses to ““Gamechanger” for Recycling Wind Turbine Blades”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Meanwhile….

  2. John Oneill Says:

    ‘..between 85% and 90% of a wind turbine’s total mass can be recycled..’
    Most of the mass would be concrete, and most of that, the base of the tower. Fair enough if that can be reused for a new turbine, otherwise it can only be broken up for rubble. Generally speaking, when a wind farm is repowered, the new turbines are bigger and further apart.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Generally speaking, when a wind farm is repowered, the new turbines are bigger and further apart.

      In this early growth phase, perhaps, but we are nearing the size limits for wind turbines so we’d expect little need to re-space in the future. This wouldn’t apply to wind turbines built into managed land, where spacing is determined by existing roads, structures and land ownership. I think in those cases it would be more cost-effective to just replace the turbines on the same bases with the same power line connections.


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