Wind energy industry body WindEurope has formed a cross-sector partnership to explore innovative approaches to wind turbine blade recycling.
WindEurope has partnered with the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Composites Industry Association (EUCIA) to create a platform aimed at widening the scope of recycling options for wind turbine blades, which are made of composite materials, with the eventual goal of increasing the sustainability of composites overall by sharing their findings on wind turbine blade recycling. The wind energy sector currently uses around 2.5 million tons of composite material; and 12,000 of the EU’s 130,000 wind turbines – responsible for 14% of the EU’s electricity in 2018 – are projected to be decommissioned in the next five years.
Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, said: “Wind energy is an increasingly important part of Europe’s energy mix. The first generation of wind turbines are now starting to come to the end of their operational life and be replaced by modern turbines. Recycling the old blades is a top priority for us; and teaming up with the chemical and compositors industries will enable us to do it the most effective way.”
Wind turbine blade recycling is currently conducted through cement co-processing, whereby the composite materials are separated to be reused as fuel and cement ingredients; reducing the CO2 emissions produced by cement processing by up to 16%. The partnership intends to explore other, potentially more sustainable recycling options including pyrolysis and mechanical recycling.
Cefic Director General Marco Mensink said: “The chemical industry plays a decisive role in the transition to a circular economy by investing in the research and development of new materials, which make wind turbine blades more reliable, affordable and recyclable. Innovation is born from collaboration and we look forward to working together to advance wind turbine blade recycling.”
Roberto Frassine, EUCIA President, said: “The wind energy sector has always been at the forefront of using composites as they are instrumental to sustainable energy generation. With this collaboration we hope to set a great industry standard that ultimately will also help customers in other industries like marine and building & infrastructure.”