The recycling of wind turbine blades has been troubling wind turbine suppliers and countries for a long time, where the composite materials contained within the blades make it even more difficult in achieving recycling and reusing. Fortunately, GE has now managed to develop the longest thermoplastic wind turbine blades in the world that are capable of full recycling.
Wind power generation is an important segment of energy transformation, though the enormous level of green electricity and environmental benefits are also accompanied by environmental issues from incorrect disposal methods. With the inclusion of glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) in wind turbines in particular, and the differentiation in designs between various suppliers, wind turbine blades are usually incinerated or dumped at landfills under consideration of cost and convenience.
As pointed out by the previous study of the University of Cambridge, there will be 43 million tons of wind turbine waste around the world by 2050. The Zero Waste Blade Research has thus been born and was initiated in September 2020, with members comprising of CNRS, Arkema, LM Wind Power (subsidiary of GE), CANOE, and Engie, who are currently studying on the production of wind turbine blades through materials that are even more sustainable.
LM Wind Power also managed to produce the prototype of the longest wind turbine blade at 62m recently through Arkema’s thermoplastic resin “Elium”, which not only facilitates 100% recycling through chemical treatment, where depolymerized materials are transformed into the original form of resin that can be reused, but is also on par with the lightweight and durable thermosetting resin in terms of performance.
LM Wind Power will be unfolding a comprehensive structural testing in the future to test the performance of the wind turbine blades, before eventually testing the method of recycling and reusing on December 22nd this year. John Korsgaard, Senior Director of LM Wind Power Engineering, commented that the team is currently attempting to resolve two major challenges of the wind power industry by marching towards zero wind turbine blade waste, as well elevating the recyclability of these blades. Thermoplastic composite blade materials contain high recycling value, and can also be used to produce new blades, aside from being applied in other industries.
(Cover photo source: Unsplash)