While wind turbines are an essential part of our journey towards a fossil fuel-free future, they still leave a footprint on the environment. This is because, though they last as long as 25 years, turbine blades are incredibly difficult to recycle, which means that they’re bound to pile up in landfills at the end of their life.
On a mission to provide a solution to this lesser-known waste problem, renewable energy company Siemens Gamesa has recently developed RecyclableBlade — a giant wind turbine blade that can be recycled once it stops spinning for good.
Conventional turbine blades are made with fiberglass or carbon fiber heated together with resin to create a material that is light yet strong enough to withstand powerful storms. This, however, makes them hard to recycle, so most of them ending up buried underground or burned.
RecyclableBlade solves that problem with a new type of resin that can be “efficiently separate[d]” from the other components of the blade at the end of its use. As a result, those materials can be reused.
As reported by Fast Company, the recyclable wind turbine blades — which come in at 81 meters long — are now ready for offshore commercial use, with the first ones set to be installed at the Kaskasi offshore wind power in Germany.
Siemens Gamesa claims that its new sustainable blade is “the world’s first wind turbine blade that can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle,” and a “milestone” for the wind industry. But the company is not the only one working to keep wind turbines away from landfills. In May this year, turbine maker Vestas said it developed a new technology that allows their turbines to be fully recycled, waste-free.
All of these efforts are key to developing a circular economy for our renewable technologies which are expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.