While wind turbines play an important role in our transition towards a post-carbon world, they do pose a few environmental concerns. For example, most of the wind turbines operating today have a lifespan of about 20 years, which means that a large number of these gigantic pieces of machinery will need to be decommissioned sometime soon.
This creates a major sustainability problem since most turbine blades today are nearly impossible to recycle because they’re made from a composite of materials that are also generally non-biodegradable. However, the good news is that there are several research teams and companies looking for innovative and creative solutions to this growing waste challenge.
Among these is The Re-Wind Network — a research group in Denmark that is repurposing discarded blades as bike garages. The team is also researching ways to recycle wind turbine blades into architectural elements that can be integrated within infrastructure, reports My Modern Met. Some of their ideas include recycling discarded blades to build pedestrian footbridges, skate parks, and noise barriers adjacent to highways.
“We’re exploring the potential reuse of the blades across architecture and engineering,” says Lawrence C. Bank of the Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the leading institutions involved in the study. “Developing such methods can have a positive effect on air quality and water quality by decreasing a major source of non-biodegradable waste.”
Other solutions to the problem of recycling wind turbines involve some companies that are working to engineer wind turbine blades that can be easily recycled when they stop spinning for good. One of these companies is renewable energy firm Siemens Gamesa, which 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.
Image source: designboom