Making the turbines 100 percent recyclable is an important task for the wind industry – and it is making significant progress in the right direction, according to WindEurope. Most components of a wind turbine – the foundation, tower, components of the gearbox and generator – are recyclable and are treated as such. But turbine blades represent a specific challenge. Wind turbine blades are made up of composite materials that boost the performance of wind energy by allowing lighter and longer blades. Today 2.5 million tonnes of composite material are in use in the wind sector globally.
The complexity of this composite material requires specific processes for recycling. Today, the main technology for recycling composite waste is through cement co-processing. The wind industry produces far less composite waste than other industries. It produces less composite waste than the building and construction sector, the electrical and electronics sector, the transportation sector, and the marine sector. And it does this, while also generating clean energy. Further development and industrialisation of alternative technologies like solvolysis and pyrolysis will provide the wind industry with additional solutions for turbine blades reaching their end-of-life, and will enable the industry to deliver zero-waste turbines.
Moving forward, the learnings from wind turbine recycling will then be transferred to other markets to enhance the overall sustainability of composites.