Repurposing Used Wind Turbine Blades

Wind power has soared in reputation within the final couple of a long time. As we speak, 8.4% of the total energy consumed in the US is from wind energy. With so many utility-scale wind generators being put in, it’s vital to contemplate the sustainability of the wind power trade. That features what occurs to the wind generators when they’re decommissioned.

Wind generators are made primarily of steel and might readily be recycled into high-value items. Nonetheless, the wind turbine blades are an exception. Because of this, many wind turbine blades find yourself in landfills or are incinerated as a result of they’re expensive to recycle. Sadly, the size of this concern will improve dramatically worldwide as wind farms attain the top of their lifespan.

Are there alternatives to repurpose wind turbine blades that create better worth to close by communities? The Re-Wind Network is exploring that very query. It’s a collaboration between researchers in the US, Eire, and Northern Eire learning repurposing choices for wind turbine blades in quite a lot of civil engineering tasks.

Repurposing Wind Turbine Blades

Re-Wind’s fall 2021 design catalog comprises all kinds of footbridges, in addition to poles for electrical distribution and transmission traces, mobile phone towers, avenue lights, and indicators. As well as, it options noise limitations for highways, bus shelters, glamping pods, and agricultural functions, equivalent to cattle partitions and feed bunks.

“We’re exploring the potential reuse of the blades throughout structure and engineering,” mentioned Larry Financial institution, a member of the Re-Wind group.“Growing such strategies can have a constructive impact on air high quality and water high quality by reducing a significant supply of non-biodegradable waste.”

Though the design lifetime of a wind turbine is about 20 to 30 years, the turbine blades are very sturdy and have a hole core. The truth is, they can be utilized for bridges that may last more than a century.

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Illustration of a “BladeBridge” supported by wind turbine blades on both facet. Picture courtesy of The Re-Wind Network

Pattern Turbine Blade Tasks

There are quite a few profitable examples of repurposing wind turbine blades for playgrounds within the Netherlands, bike shelters in Denmark, and stylish garden and street furniture. For instance, the first pedestrian bridge was just lately put in in western Poland after a battery of engineering checks. In County Cork, Ireland, wind turbine blades are used to make pedestrian bridges in a brand new greenway venture.

Different Doable Repurposing Choices

Additional analysis is required to check and standardize the usage of wind turbine blades in quite a lot of helpful functions. The Re-Wind group is even analyzing the usage of turbine blades for constructing reasonably priced housing, particularly for sturdy roofing materials.

“One of many first issues we checked out was slicing up these blades into items that may very well be given free of charge or for very low price to people in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods that may very well be utilizing them for building,” said Bank, That is notably interesting in areas susceptible to excessive climate, but blades had been designed to resist the weather.

Streamlining the Repurposing Course of

To advertise the reuse of blades, it’s vital to make it easy and cost-effective. The Re-Wind group is engaged on streamlining and standardizing the design course of to make it extra economical and swift. Testing sure blades for particular functions mitigates the engineering problem of repurposing blades.

Spare wind turbine blades in a field of wind turbines

Why Not Recycle the Blades As a substitute of Repurposing Them?

Turbine blades are tough to recycle into high-value items as a result of they’re fabricated from fiberglass and composite supplies. Because of this, recycling typically includes downcycling the fabric into low-value constructing merchandise. This strategy isn’t often economically viable although; it typically has the next price than simply disposing of the blades.

Though it may be difficult to repurpose wind turbine blades on a big scale, it gives many benefits over recycling. Repurposing can save power in comparison with recycling, which may be an energy-intensive course of.

In the end, transitioning to truly recyclable materials will finally lower the necessity to repurpose blades, particularly as builders decommission extra wind farms. Researchers on the Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory (NREL) have developed a light-weight blade from thermoplastic resin that appears to be recyclable. Additional analysis is required, however NREL appears to be making progress.


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