United Kingdom – Wind energy presents a significant opportunity for the UK to become a global leader in wind turbine blade recycling, according to the Energy Transition Alliance, a cooperation between the Net Zero Technology Centre and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
14,000 turbines approaching life end
The paper, Sustainable Decommissioning – Wind Turbine Blade Recycling Phase 2, was funded by the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub (OWIH). It noted that roughly 14,000 wind turbine blades will approach the end of their useful life in the next three years. Up to 50,000 tonnes of composite material could be recovered and recycled by 2023 for a variety of re-use applications. By advancing a greater understanding of the circular economy, landfill or incineration can be avoided and liability decreased.
Within the renewable energy sector, tremendous investment has been made to improve installation, operation, and maintenance. As the first offshore wind farms approach decommissioning in the next decade, the attention has shifted to sustainable end-of-life management.
Circular economy practices
The industry anticipates significant expansion in the number of turbines scheduled to be decommissioned over the next three decades and is investigating solutions for extending the life of turbines and more sustainable end-of-life management, such as repowering and circular economy practices.
This paper is the second in a series examining re-use and recycling potential in the wind sector, with the first estimating that a circular economy for wind turbines could generate an additional 20,000 employment.
This new report identifies five key areas that the sector must address to achieve a more circular economic model:
- Encouraging the use of materials that will be more compatible with a circular economy
- Developing processes that are cheaper and easier for recovery of materials during decommissioning
- Creating industrial-scale pilot projects to validate new methods and technologies for recycling
- Establishing a supply chain market for recycled material
- Educating the marketplace on opportunities for recycled materials from wind turbines.