Recently wrote an article for ‘The Conversation’ entitled ‘Wind turbine blades: inside the battle to overcome their waste problem’., and MaREI’s
Wind-farm owners in Europe are holding off on scrapping their old turbines to maximise the power they can generate from them. That’s the latest news from a meeting we recently attended on the industry’s future. Wind turbines are designed to last 25 years, but the calculus for owners appears to have shifted because of the surge in electricity prices due to the Ukraine war.
According to industry representative Wind Europe, only 454 megawatts (MW) of old turbines were decommissioned in 2022 compared to an expected 1.5 gigawatts (GW). That equates to more than 1,000 turbines whose lives have been extended in Europe.
Indeed, it is apparently the third year in a row in which decommissioning has undershot their expectations. Meanwhile North American turbine decommissioning fell year on year from 668MW to 276MW, we are told by the Global Wind Energy Council.
This creates a little more breathing room to solve a problem that has troubled recycling specialists for some time. Whereas most of a wind turbine can be recycled, blades cannot. They are mostly made from glass fibre or carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. Designed to be highly durable and hard, this material is very difficult to cut or grind.
At present, most old blades are either dumped in landfill or incinerated. There had been capacity at a German plant to process them into cement, but this was limited and placed a very low value on the blades.
Around 8,000 blades were expected to be retired in the US this year and another 4,000 in Europe, amounting to some 40,000 tonnes of material. The final figure may now be lower, depending on how many wind farms are able to extend their planning permission.
Looking ahead, the global forecast for annual blade waste a decade from now is about 200,000 tonnes.
Despite the current lull, that’s a huge number of blades. And the figures will only increase in subsequent years as the current generation are much longer and heavier than the last, which only adds to the waste problem.
Read it in full here.
Just published https://t.co/mUP47IiXDJ with colleagues Paul Leahy (@UCC ) and Kieran Ruane (@MTU_ie ) based on work by https://t.co/m5Tr8pbdSw and https://t.co/qmi4Z1flZu. @eriucc @MaREIcentre funded by @SEAI_ie and @IrishResearch pic.twitter.com/U2N8hYr2tA
— @peterdeeney (@PeterDeeney) November 29, 2023