Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has announced the launch of RecyclableBlade, the world’s first wind turbine blade that can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. The first six 81-meter long RecyclableBlades have been produced at the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Aalborg, Denmark.
The Spanish-German wind engineering company is working closely with three of its major customers – with RWE to install and pilot the innovative recyclable blades at the Kaskasi offshore wind power plant in Germany for the first time and is expected to commence commercial operations in 2022. The firm said it is also working with EDF Renewables with the aim to deploy several sets of RecyclableBlade at a future offshore project and with wpd with the intention to install sets of the RecyclableBlade at one of their future offshore wind power plant.
Wind turbines are an excellent source of clean power, but the issue of what to do with them when they are no longer needed is a headache for the industry. This is because today’s turbine blades are built from composite materials – older blades from glass fiber, newer ones from carbon fiber. Such composite materials might be light and strong, but they are also extremely hard to recycle.
As countries all around the world attempt to ramp up their clean, renewable energy capacity, wind turbines will be deployed at an unprecedented pace, which in turn increases pressure on the sector to find sustainable solutions to the disposal of blades. As the number of installations and turbine sizes continue to increase, it becomes even more important to reduce the amount of waste and to reuse and recycle all parts to achieve a green future.
Siemens Gamesa recyclable wind turbine blades are made from a combination of materials cast together with resin to form a strong and flexible lightweight structure. The chemical structure of this new resin type makes it possible to efficiently separate the resin from the other components at the end of the blade’s working life. The firm describes it as a “mild” process that protects the properties of the materials in the blade, in contrast to other existing ways of recycling conventional wind turbine blades. The materials can then be reused in new applications after separation.
This breakthrough is a crucial step towards Siemens Gamesa’s ambitious goal to make turbines fully recyclable by 2040.
“Our aspiration is to produce wind turbines that can generate renewable electricity for 20-30 years. When they reach the end of their useful life, we can separate the materials and use them for new relevant applications. The RecyclableBlade is a great step in that direction and well ahead of our 2040 goal,” said Gregorio Acero, Head of Quality Management & Health, Safety, and Environment at Siemens Gamesa.
In the past few years, many major players in wind energy have announced their plans to tackle the growing problem of how to dispose of turbines in an environmentally friendly way. Last year, the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project was announced, which aims to develop the first 100% recyclable wind turbine blades.
In May 2021, Vestas announced its CETEC project that aims to present a fully scoped solution for the full recyclability of wind turbine blades. And in June, Denmark’s Ørsted said it would either reuse, recycle, or recover all of the wind turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of onshore and offshore wind farms once they’re decommissioned.