Chemical process could improve wind blade recycling

Vestas has developed a new chemical process which could help break down epoxy resin, making it easier for fiber-reinforced wind turbine blades to be “turned into a source of raw material”.

The process has been developed with Aarhus University in Denmark, the Danish Technological Institute, and epoxy specialist Olin as part of the CETEC project, a project spearheaded by Vestas to investigate circular technology for turbine blades.

According to the company, the technology can be applied to blades currently in operation. Vestas says that it now plans to scale up the technology to make it commercially viable. “Once matured, this will eliminate the need for blade redesign, or landfill disposal of epoxy-based blades when they are decommissioned,” 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,” said head of sustainability Lisa Ekstrand. “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 windfarms, can be disassembled, and re-used.”

European wind association WindEurope said that around 25,000 tonnes of blades will reach the end of their operational life annually by 2025, according to Vestas.

“In the coming years, thousands of turbines will be decommissioned or repowered, representing a major sustainability challenge but also a valuable source of composite materials,” added Henrik Grand Petersen, MD of Stena Recycling Denmark.