New wind turbine blades can be recycled at the end of their life

With an eye to accelerating the rapid growth of both onshore and offshore wind power around the world, a team of researchers has recently developed a wind turbine blade that’s not only cheaper than conventional ones but also easier to recycle.

According to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who are behind the new production technique, the new turbine blade may also smoothen out current logistical hurdles associated with transporting these giant components. Blades for taller turbines can now be as long as a football field, making them quite costly to transport.

Making a wind turbine blade is quite a labor-intensive process. As explained by Scientific American, conventional blades are made by materials layered on top of each other. The main ingredients typically include fiberglass, sheets of balsa wood and a chemical called an epoxy thermoset resin. A heat oven is then required to give the blades the necessary properties so they can efficiently turn wind power into electricity.

The new blade from NREL uses most of these components, but it bonds them together with a thermoplastic resin, called Elium, that can harden and set the blade’s shape at room temperature. At the end of its life, it can also be reclaimed by heating it into a liquid resin that can then be reused to make new blades.

While more testing is required to see whether the new recyclable blades can withstand outdoor conditions, lab experiments have shown promising results so far. If everything else goes well, the new blades could pave the way for a faster transition towards a global green economy.

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