recycling fiberglass wind turbine blades

The nacelle housing and the rotor blades of many wind turbines are made of CFRP and GFRP. Wind turbine designs have evolved over time to increase in size and efficiency, ultimately leading to greater generating capacity. The wind energy industry is one of the fastest-growing application sectors of composites, where reinforcement fibers are used in the manufacturing of light rotor blades. “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,” says CEFIC Director General, Marco Mensink. A wind turbine’s blades can be longer than a 747 wing, so at the end of their lifespan they can’t just be hauled away. They are made with use of glass fibre (the older ones) or carbon fibre (the more recent models). Thanks to $1.1 million in funding from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Technology Transfer program and Wind Energy Technologies Office, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is developing a new technology for the large-scale recycling of wind turbine blades into new recycled composites. He acknowledges, though, that disposing of the blades is a challenge. Considering the limited lifetime of turbine blades, a growing number of wind turbines will start to be decommissioned. The process begins at the wind farm itself, where technicians from GFSI cut dismantle blades into more manageable 37-meter chunks. Most components of wind turbines are made of reinforced concrete, steel and metals, all of which can be easily recycled. The principle design of commercial turbines today are horizontal axis wind turbines consisting of a rotor with three fiberglass blades attached to a hub, which is itself attached to a central piece (the nacelle) that is mounted on a steel tower. Their Seattle-area-based company, which has been recycling fiberglass since 2008, has invented a way to transform the old blades into products like manhole covers, building panels and pallets. Wind Turbine Recycling and Disposal As more wind turbines are nearing the end of their useful life, the need for environmentally responsible turbine recycling and disposal is growing. The first turbines to be dismantled have revealed an unexpected complication: wind turbine design is not always eco-friendly. Wind energy generation, now topping 100 gigawatts nationally, will create 1 million tons of fiberglass … “Innovation is born from collaboration and we look forward to working together to advance wind turbine blade recycling.” Innovative recycling helps recover a multitude of materials. Currently, between 85-90% of a turbine’s parts can be recycled or sold, including the foundation, tower, gear box, and generator. 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