GE Renewable Energy has signed an agreement with Veolia to recycle its onshore wind turbine blades in the United States. This recycling contract, the first of its kind in the U.S. wind turbine industry, will turn the blades into a raw material for use in cement manufacturing. The result: a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions. This solution, which can be rapidly deployed at scale, increases the environmental benefits of the wind industry.
In order to turn the blades into raw material, Veolia will use a co-processing solution that has already proven its effectiveness in Europe: once removed from the wind turbines, the blades – mainly composed of fiberglass – will be shredded at a Veolia plant in Missouri. The resulting material will then be used in the kilns to replace the coal, sand and clay needed to make cement. More than 90% of the blade will be reused: 65% as raw material in the cement plants, and 28% transformed into energy required for the chemical reaction in the kiln.
“Sustainable disposal of composites such as wind turbine blades has been a challenge, not only for the wind turbine industry, but also for aerospace, maritime, automotive and construction industries. Veolia’s unique offering provides the opportunity to scale up and deploy quickly in North America, with minimum disruption to customers and significant benefit to the environment. We look forward to working with them on this effort to create a circular economy for composite materials,” said Anne Mcentee, CEO of GE Renewable Energy’s Digital Services Business.
“By recycling wind turbine blades for use in cement manufacturing, we reduce the amount of coal, sand and minerals needed and so produce greener cement. We have processed more than 100 blades so far and our customers have been very pleased with the product. Wind turbine blade repurposing is another example of Veolia’s commitment to a circular economy and ecological transformation in which sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand,” added Bob Cappadona, Chief Operating Officer for Veolia North America’s Environmental Solutionsand Services Division.
According to Quantis U.S., the net effect of blade recycling through cement kiln co-processing is a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 13% reduction in water consumption. A single wind turbine blade that weighs 7 US tons recycled through this process enables the cement kiln to avoid consuming nearly 5 tons of coal, 2.7 tons of silica, 1.9 tons of limestone, and nearly a ton of additional mineral-based raw materials.
It also has a net-positive environmental impact on human health, ecosystem quality, and resource consumption. The resulting cement has the same properties and performance as cement manufactured using traditional means, meeting all applicable ASTM standards.
GE Renewable Energy is committed to reducing environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of its products, including by achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020. GE Renewable Energy’s businesses regularly partner up with leaders, such as Veolia, across its products’ value chains to improve environmental performance.