Denmark – A coalition of industry and academic leaders have developed a new technology to enable circularity for thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbine blades.
The new technology delivers the final technological step on the journey towards a fully recyclable wind turbine value chain. To enable the adoption of this new technology, and to advance a circular economy across the wind industry, a new initiative entitled CETEC (Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites) has been established. Within three years, CETEC is aiming to present a fully scoped solution ready for industrial adoption, based on commercialization of the novel circularity technology.
Partly funded by Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD), CETEC is spearheaded by Vestas, the global leader in sustainable energy solutions, and involves both industrial and academic leaders including Olin, the leading producer of Epoxy, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), and Aarhus University.
Developed by DreamWind, an innovation initiative driven by the same partners, the new technology consists of a two-step process. Firstly, thermoset composites are disassembled into fibre and epoxy. Secondly, through a novel chemcycling process, the epoxy is further broken up into base components similar to virgin materials. These materials can then be reintroduced into the manufacturing of new turbine blades, constituting a new circularity pathway for epoxy resin.
Wind turbines are 85-90 percent recyclable, with turbine blade material constituting the remaining percentage that cannot be recycled, due to the nature of thermoset composites. CETEC is aiming to close this recycling gap and enable a significant step forward in the elimination of waste across the wind energy industry.
“As global commitments to a net-zero future increase, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure the wind industry can scale sustainably, which includes Vestas fulfilling our ambition to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040,” said Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, Head of Sustainability and Advanced Materials, Vestas Innovation and Concepts.
New recycling solutions
CETEC’s solution will address the lack of available recycling technology for epoxy resins. This would in turn create the possibility to introduce new recycling solutions to the wind industry. This holds significant potential for commercial value capture, particularly in markets where regulation around waste management for manufacturing industries is tightening to serve a broader sustainability agenda. When fully developed, the solution may also have an impact for other industries that rely on thermoset composite in production, such as automotive and aviation.