Turbine blades have long posed a waste challenge, as blades at the end of their life are currently sent to landfill. This will soon change.
Wind turbine maker Vestas has unveiled new technology it says will enable the blades to be fully recycled, Reuters reports.
Turbine blades are made by heating a mix of glass or carbon fibres and sticky epoxy resin, which results in a strong, lightweight composite material, but which also makes it hard to separate the original materials for recycling.
Vesta’s new technology will separate the glass and carbon fibre from the resin, before chemicals further separate the resin into base materials that the company says are “similar to virgin materials” and can then be used for the construction of new blades.
The project is a partnership between Vestas and chemical producer Olin, which produces the resin, the Danish Technological Institute and Denmark’s Aarhus University.
The partnership aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years.
Vestas’ head of sustainability and advanced materials hopes the new technology will “be a significant milestone in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning”.
Turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050, according to a 2017 University of Cambridge study, signalling the need for stewardship schemes or recycling as wind energy increases in popularity and use.