DecomBlades Consortium Launches Blade Recycling Project

A consortium consisting of ten project partners has launched a three-year ‘DecomBlades’ project which seeks to provide the basis for the commercialization of sustainable techniques for recycling wind turbine blades.

The cross-sector consortium behind DecomBlades consists of Ørsted, LM Wind Power – a GE Renewable Energy business, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, FLSmidth, MAKEEN Power, HJHansen Recycling, Energy Cluster Denmark (ECD), University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Together, these partners represent the value chain required to establish a recycling industry for composite materials – from supply, to processing, to implementation, the consortium said.

Partly funded by Innovation Fund Denmark’s Grand Solutions program, the DecomBlades project focuses on three specific processes: shredding of wind turbine blades such that the material can be reused in different products and processes; use of shredded blade material in cement production; and, finally, a method to separate the composite material under high temperatures, also known as pyrolysis.

Today 85 to 95 per cent of a wind turbine can be recycled, but cost-efficient recycling of composite materials remains a challenge. On a global scale, an estimated 2.5 million tons of composite materials are currently in use in wind turbines.

“The wind power industry is committed to finding a sustainable way to dispose of these decommissioned wind turbine blades with respect to the environment, health and safety of workers, energy consumption and cost, and we simply don’t yet have solutions that meet all those criteria,” John Korsgaard, LM Wind Power Senior Director of Engineering Excellence and Chair of the DecomBlades Steering Committee, said.

”To create viable, sustainable, cost-efficient solutions for recycling wind turbine blades, it is essential that composite materials from blades can be incorporated into similar resource streams and processed in the same facilities.”

Sustainable, widely-available and cost-effective recycling solutions for composite materials will support the wind power industry – and other composite manufacturing industries – in the transition to a circular economy, the consortium said.

“In pursuit of a carbon neutral society, recycling end-of-life materials and switching to alternative materials in cement production can play a significant role in reducing CO2 emissions,” Korsgaard said.

”The DecomBlades project focuses on recycling technologies which can be upscaled to recycle the expected volumes of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the coming decades. The investment and commitment from this cross-sector consortium represents the next step to further the growth of these recycling industries.”

Photo: Siemens Gamesa/Illustration