Wind turbine giant Siemens Gamesa claims world-first in blade recycling


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Wind turbine in backlight
Jorg Greuel | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy said Tuesday it had launched a recyclable wind turbine blade, a move which represents the latest example of how the industry is attempting to find ways to re-use materials.

In a statement, the Spanish-German engineering group claimed its RecyclableBlades were “the world’s first recyclable wind turbine blades ready for commercial use offshore.”

Siemens Gamesa said it would work with German utility RWE to install and pilot the blades at the Kaskasi offshore wind farm in the German North Sea, which is expected to commence commercial operations in 2022.

The firm – whose major shareholder is Siemens Energy – said it was also working with EDF Renewables on the goal of deploying “several sets” of the blades “at a future offshore wind farm.”

A similar collaboration is taking place with wpd, a German-headquartered company which develops and operates wind farms.

The issue of what to do with wind turbine blades when they’re no longer needed is a headache for the industry. This is because the composite materials blades are made from can prove to be difficult to recycle, which means that many end up as landfill when their service life ends.

As governments around the world attempt to ramp up their renewable energy capacity, the number of wind turbines worldwide only looks set to grow, which will in turn increase pressure on the sector to find sustainable solutions to the disposal of blades.

According to Siemens Gamesa, its recyclable blades use a new type of resin which “makes it possible to efficiently separate the resin from the other components at end of the blade’s working life.”

The business said this process, which it described as “mild,” protected “the properties of the materials in the blade, in contrast to other existing ways of recycling conventional wind turbine blades. The materials can then be reused in new applications after separation.”

Over the last few years a number of major players in wind energy have announced plans to try to tackle the problem of what to do with wind turbine blades.

In June, Denmark’s Orsted said it would “reuse, recycle, or recover” all turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of wind farms once they’re decommissioned.

The same month saw General Electric’s renewables unit and cement manufacturer Holcim strike a deal to explore the recycling of wind turbine blades.

Back in April, it was announced that a collaboration between academia and industry would focus on the recycling of glass fiber products, a move that could eventually help to reduce the waste produced by wind turbine blades.

Last December, GE Renewable Energy and Veolia North America signed a “multi-year agreement” to recycle blades removed from onshore wind turbines in the United States.

And in January 2020 another wind energy giant, Vestas, said it was aiming to produce “zero-waste” turbines by the year 2040.

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