Wind turbine maker Vestas today announced that it’s figured out how to recycle all wind turbine blades – even ones already sitting in landfills.
The Danish company says it has discovered a solution that “renders epoxy-based turbine blades as circular, without the need for changing the design or composition of blade material.”
Vestas, Aarhus University, Danish Technological Institute, and epoxy maker Olin have developed a novel process that can chemically break down epoxy resin into virgin-grade materials. The four industry and academic partners formed a coalition called the CETEC project – Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites – in May 2021.
Lisa Ekstrand, vice president and head of sustainability at Vestas, said:
Until now, the wind industry has believed that turbine blade material calls for a new approach to design and manufacture to be either recyclable, or beyond this, circular, at end of life. Going forward, we can now view old epoxy-based blades as a source of raw material.
Once this new technology is implemented at scale, legacy blade material currently sitting in landfill, as well as blade material in active wind farms, can be disassembled and reused. This signals a new era for the wind industry, and accelerates our journey towards achieving circularity.
Vestas says it will now scale up the chemical disassembly process into a commercial solution through a newly established value chain, supported by Nordic recycling firm Stena Recycling and Olin. Once mature, Vestas says, “the solution will signal the beginning of a circular economy for all existing, and future epoxy-based turbine blades.”
Up to now, turbine blades have been challenging to recycle due to the chemical properties of epoxy resin, a resilient substance that was believed to be impossible to break down into reusable components.
Well, this is a huge announcement. If Vestas indeed just figured out how to recycle ALL wind turbine blades EVERYWHERE, then this solves one of – if not the biggest – the wind industry’s major headaches.
WindEurope expects around 25,000 tonnes of blades to reach the end of their operational life annually by 2025, rising to 52,000 tonnes by 2030. This exciting breakthrough couldn’t have come at a better time.
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