The world’s first turbine with recyclable blades is now operational

Wind energy just became cleaner.
Ameya Paleja
Recyclable bladesSiemens Gamesa
  • Conventional wind turbine blades end up in landfills after their time is up.
  • Siemens Gamesa's technology can put turbine components back into the circular economy.
  • The company plans to manufacture all turbine blades using this technology by 2040.

The world's first wind turbine with a fully recyclable blade has been installed at the Kaskasi offshore wind farm. The wind farm is located 21 miles north of the island of Heligoland in the German North Sea.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), as much as 94 GW of wind-powered energy generation was added in 2021 alone, taking total wind power capability to 837 GW, which is helping the world save 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

However, with the increased demand for wind turbines, there is also the dreaded drawback of the amount of waste these turbines will result in when they reach the end of their lifetimes. To make them lightweight, turbine manufacturers used a variety of components that are bound together with a resin, so that they do not fall apart in rough conditions. This is what makes them non-environment friendly when not generating power.

Although we have reported some innovative ways in how turbines could be reused, the need of the hour is a much more sustainable solution.

The recyclable blade

Turbine makers Siemens Gamesa recognized the major issue of their product and began working on its Recyclable Blade last year. The company claims that it has replaced the resin that it uses on the blade which is now dissolvable in a mild acid solution.

When the blade completes its lifetime, the resin can be fully dissolved to recover the turbine components such as fiberglass and wood. It can then enter the circular economy to create new products such as suitcases or flat-screen casings without needing additional raw materials.

The technology was developed at the company's Aalborg facility in Denmark while the blades were manufactured at Hull in the U.K. The nacelle of the turbine is manufactured in Cuxhaven in Germany.

Where is the turbine installed?

The RecyclableBlade has been installed as part of the Kaskasi offshore wind farm in the North Sea. The turbine blades are handcrafted and 265 feet (81 m) long. Although Siemens Gamesa hasn't specified the exact number of blades that will be used, the Kaskasi wind farm is designed to have 38 of the company's SG 8.0-167 DD turbines. The total output of the offshore project is 342 MW, which is expected to power 400,000 households in Germany.

"We’ve brought the Siemens Gamesa RecyclableBlade technology to market in only 10 months: from launch in September 2021 to installation at RWE’s Kaskasi project in July 2022," said Marc Becker, CEO of the Siemens Gamesa Offshore Business Unit. "This is impressive and underlines the pace at which we all need to move to provide enough generating capacity to combat the global climate emergency." The company plans to use this technology for all blades that it produces by 2040.

For now, the Recyclable Blade technology is also available for 354 feet (108 m) long B108 and 377 feet (115 m) long B115 blades that Siemens Gamesa uses for its SG 14-222 DD offshore and SG 14-236 DD turbines wind turbines.

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