We know wind power is generated via massive fiberglass blades, each of which can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed—or recycled or repurposed for that matter.
It’s a curious conundrum: Tens of thousands of blades must be replaced each year and most have nowhere to go but landfills.
The question of what to do with aging blades only emerged over the last five years or so as the first wind turbines reached the end of their lives after more than two decades of service.
The need for a better solution than landfills has steadily increased as the newest blades in use have grown increasingly larger. That’s spurred a mini-industry of companies with new ideas on how to recycle them.
Now a Danish startup has found a way to crush these blades, turning an ultra-resistant mix of fiberglass and industrial glue into barriers designed to block noise from highways and factories.
Copenhagen-based Miljoskarm can grind the blades into small pieces of 1 to 2 centimeters with the same type of machines used in auto junkyards.
The material is then placed in recycled plastic cases that block noise at least at the same level as barriers made from aluminum and mineral wool, with less maintenance required.
Accredited tests document, that noise barriers with an acoustic absorbent core of recycled glassfiber material have acoustic properties fully comparable to that of mineral wool.
By developing products for acoustic and thermal insulation Milijoskarm has addressed 2 basic challenges of recycling:
- Reliable fit-for-purpose technology for processing of the composite material
- Products and applications for the recycled material with potential for commercial production
Noise pollution constitutes a major environmental health problem and is considered the second most serious environmental problem in Europe today. This implies that the market for noise abatement is very large, on a European level as well as on a global scale.
Miljoskarm expects to process 50 to 100 tons of material this year. At about 15 tons for one 50-meter blade, that’s the equivalent of recycling 3 to 6 blades.
Companies like Milijoskarm will take away some pressure from landfills and also provide a use second life to discarded wind turbine blades.
Reference- Bloomberg, Miljoskarm website, Wikipedia