Analyzing potential to recycle millions of tons of wind turbine blades


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The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in collaboration with the American Composite Manufacturers Association (ACMA), addresses scientific questions related to recycling millions of tons of wind turbine blades that would otherwise end up in landfills, in a recently published report. The analysis provides guidance on wind power industry R&D priorities, including the magnitude of the wind turbine blade waste issue, potential recycling and repurposing solutions, and next steps for research and development.  

EPRI Senior Technical Executive Ken Ladwig commented that, by 2050, the industry could send approximately 4 million tons of wind turbine blades to U.S. landfills. The report points to promising technologies to avoid waste disposal and explore the need for further review and development of recycling technologies. It also shows us the need for the collaborative development of a commercial-scale facility to process blades at the end of their useful life, as a key aspect of a sustainable and economically viable solution.

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The commercially available technologies reviewed by the report include:

– Turbine blade life extension.
– Pyrolysis (a process to repurpose materials from composites for energy).
– Cement kilns applications.
– Grinding turbine blades to re-use them as filler material in a variety of products.

The assessment is based on interviews with industry leaders and experts around the world, focusing on four key questions of turbine blade recycling:  

– Wind turbine blade scrap resources.
– Material and energy recovery technology.
– Site location considerations.
– Summary of models that address technical and economic viability of recycling processes.

ACMA’s Interim President Kevin Barnett stated that, the composite industry looks ahead to the next revolution in manufacturing, recycling and sustainability which are critical issues. This important report would provide insight from key industry stakeholders that will inform and promote long-term strategies, new technologies and collaboration to pioneer energy-efficient composite manufacturing and EOL recycling.

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