In case you weren’t aware, wind turbine blades can’t be recycled. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds and stay put for many years, these blades are almost impossible to crush, dismantle, or recycle in any form, and they end up being buried in huge landfill sites to likely never be used again. Not exactly the eco-friendly ending to humanity’s push towards a sustainable future. Now, however, that may be about to change.
The world’s first wind turbine with recyclable blades has been installed on an offshore windfarm in Germany. The Seimens Gamesa RecyclableBlades is the first turbine blade that claims to be strong enough to withstand the forces of nature, but when its time comes to an end, can be recycled using a mild acid solution.
“This is impressive and underlines the pace at which we all need to move to provide enough generating capacity to combat the global climate emergency,” said Marc Becker, CEO of the Siemens Gamesa Offshore Business Unit, in a statement.
"This milestone marks a significant contribution to Siemens Gamesa’s target of having fully recyclable turbines by 2040. With RecyclableBlade available for our customers, we can create a virtuous circular economy.”
The RecyclableBlade is made of a mixture of materials including fiberglass, resin, and wood – similar but not identical to current blades. The difference is in the ability to separate the materials afterward, which Seimens claims can then be used for various other applications, such as suitcases.
It is hoped the new development will curb the huge need for turbine blade waste management, with Bloomberg reporting around 8,000 blades enter landfill each year in the US alone. Currently, the landfills will simply remain there forever, and an extraordinary amount of space is required to hold the 35 – 45-meter (115 – 150-foot) rotor blades.
With the global push towards sustainability, recycling these gargantuan blades must become a priority if wind power is going to be at the forefront.