Wind energy companies will have the option of using decommissioned wind turbine blades as backfill material when reclaiming surface coal mine sites soon, thanks to a new bill signed into law earlier this year. But first, the state needs to set the rules. Wyoming environmental regulators gathered input on draft rules related to the new law with the Land Quality Division Advisory Board on Thursday. The public and industry representatives had the opportunity to weigh in.

Back in March, the Wyoming Legislature passed House Bill 129, extending the option to companies to repurpose retired wind blades when reclaiming surface coal mines. The blades, which typically make up about 10% of a wind turbine’s total material, are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is a tricky material that can’t be recycled or easily repurposed. And as utility companies look to replace aging wind turbines, the machines’ blades are being buried in stacks at a handful of landfills around the country, including in the Casper Regional Landfill.

Soon coal mines could be another disposal option. Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said he supported the solution. “This is a good idea and it’s forward thinking,” Deti told the board. “It’s an opportunity … Like any energy industry, wind produces waste. It’s a time for the mining industry to be a part of the solution of how to dispose of that waste.”

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Author: Camille Erickson, Casper Star-Tribune
Image: Cayla Nimmo, Star-Tribune