Wind sector tackles recycling

27 May 2020

Europe’s wind energy sector says that innovation and cross-industry alliances will help boost recycling rates.

Industry association WindEurope, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA) have drawn up a number of recommendations to boost the recycling of old wind turbine materials, and say that investment in circular solutions should be at the heart of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

According to WindEurope, around 85-90 per cent of wind turbines’ total mass can be recycled. However turbine blades represent a specific challenge because they are made from complex composite materials and require specific recycling processes.

In a new report, WindEurope and its partners have concluded that while there are a number of different technologies able to recycle turbine blades, not all are available at an industrial scale. They also believe that more research and innovation funding is required to support the development of composite recycling technologies.

They also say that composite recycling is a cross-sector challenge requiring active engagement from all the composite-using sectors and authorities.

“Investing in renewable energy production and circular solutions should be one of the key drivers of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery,” Cefic Director General, Marco Mensink explains. “I am very proud of the partnership we have built with the wind energy supply chain to come up with an effective solution to recycling wind blades. This shows that cross-industry and value chain alliances are a very powerful tool for speeding up innovation and scaling up cutting edge technologies”.

WindEurope CEO, Giles Dickson said: “The first generation of wind turbines are now starting to come to the end of their operational life. Many of them will be replaced by modern, more efficient turbines. We estimate that 14,000 wind turbine blades will be decommissioned in Europe by 2023. The recycling of these old blades is a top priority for us, as we are committed to the principles of a circular economy. Our collaboration with Cefic and EuCIA is key to scaling up the necessary recycling technologies and value chains.”

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