Innovation That Matters

The consortium is hoping to develop a process to recycle old wind turbines | Photo source Aker Offshore Wind AS

Technology to recycle wind turbine blades

Agriculture & Energy

A Scottish and Norwegian consortium will be cooperating on a three-year pilot project to develop the UK’s first turbine blade recycling project

Spotted: As of 2020, there were more than 340,000 wind turbines in use globally, with an installed capacity of around 743 gigawatts. While wind farming is anticipated to grow rapidly in the coming years, there is one big problem with the technology – recycling the components. While much of the total mass of a wind turbine can already be recycled with established processes, the blades are another story. And with the wind industry calling for a Europe-wide ban on landfilling turbine blades, finding a solution is imperative. That is exactly what a new consortium hopes to achieve.

Wind turbine blades are made from composite materials, such as reinforced glass or carbon fibres and a polymer matrix. This makes them tough and flexible, but also very difficult to recycle. A consortium including Aker Offshore Wind, trade body Composites UK, researchers at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Composites Group and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, and other partners is developing new recycling technology for composites.

The technology, developed at the University of Strathclyde, will separate the glass-fibre and resin components in the blades, and recover the glass-fibre component which can then be reprocessed, moulded, and reused. The project is supported by £1.3 million in funding from Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency.

Malcolm Forsyth, Sustainability Manager at Composites UK and overall project leader, described the project as a vital step towards establishing a commercial recycling route for composite materials in the UK. He added that, “Composite materials combining glass-fibre and polymer resin systems, have a huge role to play in enabling the UK economy to transition to net zero and we need effective recycling at end of life to ensure that composite materials achieve high levels of circularity in future.”

Wind power is seeing a number of innovations – from robots to remotely inspect and offshore repair turbines to a super-tall floating turbine platform. But this project is different, in that it aims to improve the sustainability of the turbines themselves.  

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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