Denmark-based wind turbine maker Vestas has unveiled a new technology that enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, thus avoiding the dumping of old blades and reducing waste generated from them.
According to a 2017 University of Cambridge study, turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tonnes of waste globally by 2050 with China possessing 40 percent of the waste, Europe 25 percent, the US 16 percent and the rest of the world 19 percent. 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.
Turbine blades are made by heating a mix of glass or carbon fibers and sticky epoxy resin, which combines the materials, providing a strong lightweight composite material, which also makes it hard to separate the original materials for recycling.
With the new technology of Vestas, the glass or carbon fiber is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials that are “similar to virgin materials” that can then be used for the construction of new blades.
The project is conducted in cooperation between Vestas, chemical producer Olin, which produces resin for turbine blades, the Danish Technological Institute which is an independent research and technology institute and Denmark’s Aarhus University.
The project aims to develop the technology for industrial-scale production within three years and it also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components.