Wind turbines are becoming increasingly popular for power generation, as a valid source of alternative energy. They are seen as an efficient way to fight the effects of rising carbon emissions causing climate change. However, there has always been an unfortunate drawback. Wind turbine blades cannot be recycled and they have ended up in large landfills to dispose of them.
Why are they difficult to dispose of? This is due to the fact that wind turbine blades are made with composite material infused with a thermoset resin, necessary to make them highly durable to withstand storms and the elements. Unfortunately, thermoset plastics are almost impossible to recycle, so the blades do not have much scrap value and are not attractive to recyclers. As a result, many spent turbine blades are piling up in landfills.
This is insane! https://t.co/mgh2Q09UdD
— Josephinea197 (@Josephinea197) September 14, 2021
Since an average turbine’s lifespan lasts 25 to 30 years, this has been a growing problem. Wind turbines deal with a great amount of force and environmental factors and take a lot of pounding from birds, lightning strikes, and gale force winds which wear down bearings, the blades, and various other components over the years.
Some of these blades are as long as football fields. And according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), at the end of 2016, there were more than 341,000 wind turbines spinning and generating energy worldwide. This means they are the source of a lot of waste and pose a real threat to the environment. Since then, many more wind turbines have been installed throughout the world creating a greater future pile of non recyclable waste when they reach end-of-life.
However, one company has reported that it has a solution to the problem. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy announced Tuesday it had launched a recyclable wind turbine blade. The company says its recyclable blades use a new type of resin which “makes it possible to efficiently separate the resin from the other components at the end of the blade’s working life.” The materials can then be reused in new applications after separation.”
"The world’s first fully recyclable wind turbine blades have rolled off the production line of a factory in Denmark, ready to be installed and tested at an offshore wind farm being developed in Germany." https://t.co/QGOpgUUKij
— Magnus Carlbring (@MagnusCarlbring) September 10, 2021
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Some observers see this as a bold claim as turbine manufacturing companies have for years stated that while they do have as a goal a zero-waste recyclable wind turbine, they have not been able to achieve it because of the technical requirement to make the blades strong enough to resist wind pressure and bird collisions. However, if Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy can show that its blades resist through time and deliver as much energy as the standard ones using thermoset plastics, then the alternative, green energy industry will have made a big step forward. This is ever more important as the demand for green energy sources rises and more governments turn to them to combat climate change.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Wind Turbines. Featured Photo Credit: American Public Power Association