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Can wind turbines be completely recyclable? Vestas says yes

One of the biggest arguments that naysayers make against the sustainability industry is that its renewable power production is built on the back of some pretty polluting industrial processes.

Meadow Lake wind farm in Chalmers, Ind. Image Credit:Flickr/Anthony

Whether or not the criticism comes from a well-intentioned place, there’s some truth to the fact that while the power clean energy produces is sustainable, the industrial production involved isn’t always the most environmentally friendly and there’s the potential for massive waste streams.

Now one of the leading producers of wind power systems says it has developed a system that can address the waste issue at least.

The company would be Vestas, which makes onshore and offshore wind turbines. Alongside the epoxy manufacturer Olin, and researchers from the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University, Vestas has developed a technology that allows wind turbine blades to be 100% recyclable, the company said.

To ensure mass adoption of the new technology, the partners have created the Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites (CETEC), which will present a fully scoped and commercial solution within the next three years, according to a statement.

The new technology, which was developed by the companies under the banner of DreamWind, involves a two-step process that breaks down thermoset composites into fiber and epoxy. Then, through a chemical process the epoxy is broken down into base components that can be reintroduced into the manufacturing of new turbine blades.

The turbines were already roughly 85% recyclable, with the blade material the sole component that couldn’t be repurposed.

“As global commitments to a net-zero future increase, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure the wind industry can scale sustainably, which includes Vestas fulfilling our ambition to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040,” said Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, Head of Sustainability and Advanced Materials, Vestas Innovation and Concepts, in a statement. “Leveraging this new technological breakthrough in chemcycling epoxy resin, the CETEC project will be a significant milestone in Vestas’ journey towards achieving this goal, and in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning.”

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