Composites industry to advance wind turbine recycling
WindEurope asbl, Brussels/Belgium, the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), Brussels, and the European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA), Brussels have created a cross-sector platform to advance novel approaches to the recycling of wind turbine blades.
In 2018 wind energy supplied 14 % of the electricity in the European Union (EU) with 130,000 wind turbines and the number is expected to grow in the coming decades. Wind turbine blades are made up of a composite material, which boosts the performance of wind energy by allowing lighter and longer blades. Today, 2.5 million tons of composite material are in use in the wind energy sector.
In the next 5 years 12,000 wind turbines are expected to be decommissioned. Broadening the range of recycling options is critical for the industry’s development.
Composite materials are being recycled today at commercial scale through cement co-processing, where the cement raw materials are being partially replaced by the glass fibers and fillers in the composite, and the organic fraction replaces coal as a fuel. Through that process, the carbon dioxide output of the cement manufacturing process can be significantly reduced (up to 16 % reduction is possible if composites represent 75 % of cement raw materials).
As a global supplier to wind blade and nacelle producers, Ashland hopes to set an industry standard where learnings from wind turbine recycling will then be transferred to other markets to enhance the overall sustainability of composites.”
Besides recycling through cement co-processing, alternative technologies like mechanical recycling, solvolysis and pyrolysis are being developed, ultimately providing the industry with additional solutions for end of life.