EDP Renewables and Thermal Recycling of Composites aim to develop alternatives for recycling wind turbine blades.
The aim of the initiative is to recycle faulty or damaged turbine blades, including parts from EDP Renewables (EDPR)’s wind farms that have reached the end of their lifecycle. The initiative will be implemented on a pilot basis.
Because the wind power sector is relatively new, wind energy waste has yet to reach significant volumes. However, EDPR says that waste management is posing an increasing concern, and its goal is to create a new, sustainable system.
The collaboration has also launched new recycling technology R3FIBER, which has been developed by Thermal Recycling of Composites (TRC) and a team led by Félix López Gomez at CSIC’s National Centre for Metallurgical Research. TRC is a spinoff of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).
R3FIBER is developed to recycle fibre-infused plastics through a thermo-chemical transformation process. It converts resins of combustible gases and liquid fuels into glass or carbon fibres that can then be reused. The technology is applicable to components made from both fibreglass and carbon fibre, such as wind turbines.
Spain is ranked fourth in the world for installed wind power capacity, behind China, the United States and Germany.
Of all Spanish wind farms, 60% are more than 15 years old. A few of these will reach the end of their life cycle in the coming years and this pioneering project, undertaken by EDPR and TRC, may solve the problem of dealing with this waste, thereby reducing the environmental impact of wind energy.
Wind turbines are made of recyclable material, mainly metals, but the main challenge now lies in the blades, which are made up of complex materials.
The solar power sector has already initiated recycling programmes for solar panels that have reached the end of their lifecycle. The European solar panel recycling association PV Cycle has developed a process by which over 95% of a panel’s materials can be recovered. Some solar panel manufacturers have also developed programmes to accept used panels back for recycling.