Working in collaboration with a team of industry and academic experts, Vestas leads the Circular Economic for Thermosets Epoxy Composites (CETEC) project to enable a fully circular economy across the global wind sector. As first-generation turbines begin to reach the end of their operational life, fundamental questions are being asked about the environmental impact that the waste generated from decommissioning could present. With 85-90% of wind turbine components classed as recyclable material, the CETEC project aims to close the recycling gap by processing the turbine blade material, which is not currently treated as reusable.
Wind turbine blades present a specific challenge at end-of-life as the complexity of thermoset composites, the material used to make the blades, renders the materials challenging to recycle. This is due to the strong bonding between the epoxy and fiber materials. This is also the feature that governs the low-weight and high-strength properties of these composites.
With properties that allow longer and lighter blades, composites have become an attractive material to turbine manufacturers, with approximately 2.5 million tons in use globally across the wind sector.
The new technique that would enable circularity for thermoset composites has been developed as part of the DreamWind initiative. This innovation program involved Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer; Aarhus University; the Danish Technological Institute (DTI); and Olin, the leading epoxy manufacturer.