85-95% of the turbine can be recycled, the tower can be melted down and the metals reused, and the materials in the turbine housing itself, including the generator, can all be reused.
However, the blades are another matter. The composites from which many of them are built are tough to recycle and often get thrown away. The whole truth of the matter is that the wind industry has one of the lowest composite waste rates as the composite blades are a small part of the overall materials.
The construction, electronic, transport, and shipping industries all produce more composites waste than the wind industry.
Despite how little of a negative impact the blades are, the wind industry is taking the problem on regardless. A new multi-company project, called DecomBlades, aims to find ways to recycle the parts of composite blades that can’t be readily recycled today.
The consortium is a joint project between ten wind power companies. The goal is to change the industry by figuring out three different ways to make use of the blade material.
- First, they’re looking at finding ways to shred the blades up and leave fibers that can be reused for new composite objects.
- Second, they’re looking for ways to use the composites to reinforce concrete.
- Finally, they’re going to study ways to separate the composites again, using pyrolysis.
Each of these methods would be a great way to reuse the composites, but having multiple options would help cover the waste from the whole industry.
The DecomBlades project focuses on recycling technologies which can be upscaled to recycle the expected volumes of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the coming decades.
The overall goal is to help turn the whole wind industry into a circular industry, or one that doesn’t take raw materials but will only use recycled materials at some point in the future.
Reference- DecomBlades Consortium PR, Clean Technica, The Guardian, Siemens Gamesa website