Vestas is introducing a novel way for making epoxy-based turbine blades circular without modifying the design or composition of the blade material.
The approach may be applied to existing blades by combining newly found chemical technology developed under the CETEC program and cooperation with Olin and Stena Recycling. Once mature, this will eliminate the requirement for blade redesign or landfill disposal of retired epoxy-based blades.
Due to the chemical features of epoxy resin, a tough material thought to be impossible to break down into re-usable components, turbine blades have historically proven difficult to recycle. Vestas’ approach is made possible by an unique chemical process that converts epoxy resin into virgin-grade components.
Wind turbine blades made using epoxy-based resin have been normal practice in the wind industry for decades. The first turbines are nearing the end of their operational lives in the most mature wind energy sectors, and this will rise in the following years.
WindEurope anticipates that around 25,000 tonnes of blades will reach the end of their operational life per year by 2025.
Once mature, the new approach will allow Vestas to build new turbine blades produced from re-used blade material. In the future, the novel method might pave the way for all epoxy-based composite materials to be used as raw materials in a larger circular economy, perhaps embracing sectors other than wind energy.
The newly found chemical method demonstrates that epoxy-based turbine blades, whether in use or resting in a landfill, may be converted into a supply of raw material for the possible construction of new turbine blades.
Because the chemical process uses readily available chemicals, it is very compatible for industrialization and can thus be rapidly scaled up.
Reference- Vestas Online Newsroom, Globe PR, Interesting Engineering, Renewable Energy Watch