Recycling of wind turbine blades? Yes, it's now a thing
Major companies invest in methods to turn out reusable materials.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
When the first cars emerged from the factories of the Ford Motor Co. (F) in 1903, there’s little doubt no one was thinking about what to do with them when they became worn out in, say, 1919.
It’s somewhat similar today with renewables. EV batteries expire and solar panels tire, and now companies and consumers have the headache of disposing or recycling.
It also turns out that wind turbine blades have to be replaced.
The issue of what to do with the whirling arms when they’re no longer needed is a headache for the industry, reports CNBC. This is because the composite materials blades are made from can prove to be difficult to recycle, which means that many end up in landfills when their service life ends.
And as the amount of wind turbines being used increases, the topic looks set to become even more pressing. Spanish manufacturer Iberdrola (IBDRY) said it was estimated that roughly 5,700 wind turbines would be dismantled in Europe each year in 2030.
But there are moves to recycle and refurbish. In Sept. 2021, for example, Siemens Gamesa (GCTAY) said it had launched a recyclable wind turbine blade, with the firm claiming its RecyclableBlades were “the world’s first recyclable wind turbine blades ready for commercial use offshore.”
A few months earlier, Denmark’s Ørsted (DNNGY) said it would “reuse, recycle, or recover” all turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of wind farms once they’re decommissioned.
That June also saw General Electric’s (GE) renewables unit and cement manufacturer Holcim (HCMLY) strike a deal to explore the recycling of wind turbine blades into building materials.
In Jan. 2020 another Danish wind energy giant, Vestas (VWDRY), said it was aiming to produce “zero-waste” turbines by the year 2040.
As for Iberdrola, it has formed a company called EnergyLOOP to develop a €10 million blade recycling factory in Navarre, a region in northern Spain, reports ESG Today. Said Iberdrola: “The initial objective will be the recovery of wind turbine blade components — mostly glass and carbon fibers and resins — and their reuse in sectors such as energy, aerospace, automotive, textiles, chemicals and construction.” EnergyLOOP would also have support from Siemens Gamesa.
What goes around, comes around.