As wind turbines near the end of their lives, how do we recycle them responsibly?
Currently, up to 94% of a wind turbine can be recycled.
However, the rotor blades are made of composite materials (e.g., Fiber-Reinforced Plastics, mostly fiberglass and carbon fiber) and pose a more significant recycling challenge to the wind industry and the composite materials sector. As Fiber-Reinforced Plastics (FRPs) are complex to recycle, the majority of rotor blades are currently going to either landfills or incineration facilities.
While blade materials are non-toxic, concerns have been raised about space in landfills and the industry has been investigating options to make disposal more sustainable. Several European countries have banned the landfilling of turbine blades a few years in the future to allow for the validation and scaling up of alternatives, and many U.S states have introduced (but not yet passed) legislation requiring turbine manufactures to take back turbine blades, or outright ban landfilling of blades.
As blade waste continues to grow with other composite waste streams, effective alternatives are needed for End-of-Life (EoL) blade management. The current recycling technology landscape, cost constraints, logistics, and alternative EoL concepts to consider are presented within this whitepaper.
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