WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
At some point in the future all the renewable generation systems we’re building will go end of life, and noone wants it all to end up in landfill …
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As the world moves away from polluting fossil fuels many have questioned the green credentials of many of the “green” replacements such as Lithium Ion (LiON) batteries which up until recently couldn’t be recycled that could have seen countries drown under hundreds of millions of dead electric vehicle batteries which would have had to go to landfill or be used as tied grid storage to support renewable energy grids.
However, now that thorny issue is sorted another equally thorny issue has raised its head: What to do with all the old wind turbine blades when they also reach the end of their useful life?
Now, fortunately, environmentalists everywhere have an answer, or at least part of one, after a consortium led by Aker Offshore Wind and Scottish researchers announced they’re launching a pilot project “to develop the UK’s first wind turbine blade recycling plant,” after securing a £1.3 million grant from Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency.
The £2 million three year project, which will see Aker Offshore Wind also contributing more than £500,000, is set up to commercialise a method developed by the University of Strathclyde to separate the glass-fibre and resin components in composites and recover the glass-fibre component which can then be reprocessed, moulded, and reused in other industries, such as the motor trade and the construction industry.
The pilot will now get underway to develop a commercially viable solution, overseen by Aker Offshore Wind, trade body Composites UK, and researchers at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Composites Group and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, which is a part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland Group.
Other academic and industry partners include Nottingham University, global waste management firm SUEZ, composite distributor GRP Solutions and composite part manufacturer Cubis.
Aker Offshore Wind said it had pledged its support to WindEurope’s call for a Europe-wide landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades by 2025 and considered this project a crucial step towards setting a new standard for the industry.
At present, when giant turbine blades reach the end of their working lives, there are only two options for managing the waste: send them to a landfill or to waste-to-energy plants where they are combusted at significant energy cost, the company said.
Aker Offshore Wind pointed out that this new project had giant environmental benefits as waste from wind turbine blades alone are expected to reach around 2 million tonnes globally by 2050, and UK volumes of composite waste already exceed 100,000 tonnes per year.