As the world moves towards renewable sources of energy, there are newer challenges that are being thrown up. While energy is being created in a sustainable way, the equipment used to generate it is still largely polluting. Wind turbines are not fully recyclable and their blades usually end up in landfills. To address this, German manufacturer, Siemens, has developed the world's first recyclable wind turbine blade, said a company press release.
Among the components of a wind turbine, the tower and the nacelle is largely recyclable. The blade of the turbine, however, isn't. Made up of a core material like wood or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the blades are cast using glass and carbon fiber and then covered with a resin that binds them all together. Once the blade completes its life, the removal of the resin is not cost-efficient, and therefore, blades end up in landfills. According to the company, wind turbine blades currently contribute 10 percent of the fiber-reinforced composite (FRP) in Europe and the problem will only exacerbate as more blades come to the end of their life.
By changing the resin, Siemens has made the recovery of the blade components much easier. The new resin that the company plans to use melts away in a mild acidic solution, making the components available for recycling and repurposing.
Siemens has already manufactured the first set of these blades at their Denmark factory and plans to test them at sites with at least three of their customers. While two of these customers plan to use the blades in their future projects, one will be installing them at the Kaskasi offshore farm in Germany, which is scheduled to go online next year.
“Our aspiration is to produce wind turbines that can generate renewable electricity for 20-30 years," said Gregorio Acero, Head of Quality Management & Health, Safety, and Environment at the company in the press release. "When they reach the end of their useful life, we can separate the materials and use them for new relevant applications. The RecyclableBlade is a great step in that direction."
The company plans to make its turbines 100 percent recyclable by 2040 and estimates that this will make 10 million tons of material recyclable by 2050.
According to a recent Global Wind Energy Council report, up to 200 Gigawatt (GW) of wind energy could be installed by the turn of the current decade.