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Decommissioned wind turbine blades spun into recyclable buildings

A new technology transforms retired wind turbine blades into recyclable materials. The innaguration of a dedicated recycling facility in Esbjerg is scheduled fo no later than 2026, aimed at managing fiberglass waste from the wind industry.
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29 November 2023

Danish wind energy

Wind energy plays a key role in reaching Denmark’s target of 70 % greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030. And with some of the best wind conditions in the world, it is easy to understand how Denmark has become a global hub for wind power technology.

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Continuum Composite Recycling, a Danish solution provider, has developed an innovative technology to convert fibreglass waste into high-quality construction materials. This method efficiently processes fibreglass-reinforced thermosetting plastic, a key component in wind turbine blades, nacelles, monopole covers, as well as in ships and aircraft.

The process allows for the near-complete utilization of materials from decommissioned wind turbine blades, ensuring nearly 100% repurposing of these resources. The reclaimed materials are used in creating facade elements, foundations, tiles, and various other building materials, contributing to a sustainable and circular approach in construction.

This advancement not only enhances the efficient use of raw materials but also plays a crucial role in promoting sustainable construction practices.

The inauguration of the recycling plant is scheduled for construction in Esbjerg by 2024, with operations expected to commence no later than 2026.

Related news: New project achieves breakthrough in recycling wind turbine blades

“We have developed a technology that makes it possible to repurpose the fiberglass waste, which has been a challenge in several industries until now. The output is competitive upcycled materials for the construction industry, which e.g., can be used for facades, in wet rooms, in foundations and for floor separation. The technology will, therefore, help reduce the carbon footprint in the construction industry,” Jesper Kilbæk, Chief Operating Officer at Continuum.

An all-in-one method

A wind turbine blade consists of a number of composites, including fibreglass and epoxy glue, which are designed to withstand harsh conditions for years. This has previously presented challenges when the wind turbines are subsequently taken out of operation, as the high durability means that the materials are difficult to break down.

However, Continuum’s method represents a groundbreaking approach, allowing for the recycling of all materials from both new and ageing wind turbine blades within a singular process. According to Continuum, their method exhibits a gentler approach compared to conventional techniques like chemical decomposition or pyrolysis.

“To be specific, we break down the materials into small fragments of 0.5 to 2 millimeters. These are then exposed to a type of resin and an additive. The three items are then compressed at high temperatures and pressure resulting in a recyclable material with high mechanical value that makes it durable for multiple purposes in the construction industry,” Hülya Ucar, Materials & Recycling Specialist at Continuum.

Denmark’s biggest port

Port Esbjerg is the world’s largest base port for offshore wind activities. Embark on a 360 virtual tour to explore the Port of Esbjerg.

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Esbjerg, the gateway to offshore wind in Northern Europe

According to the plan, the first recycling factory is to be built in Esbjerg, where Continuum expects to break ground in late summer 2024.

By early 2026, at the latest, the factory is slated to be operational for receiving fibreglass waste. Continuum aims to transform this waste into building materials, yielding an annual output equivalent to 30,000 cubic meters.

The establishment of the factory in Esbjerg is estimated to contribute to the creation of 60-65 jobs directly tied to the production process. Currently, Continuum receives weekly inquiries and experiences great interest in disposing of fibreglass waste and is in healthy dialogue with several international stakeholders.

Continuum expects six factories to be ready across Germany, France, Spain, England, and Turkey by 2035.

Additional information

  • Approximately 85% of a wind turbine is today already being recycled.
  • Wind turbine blades often end up in landfill as the hard wearing and durable materials are difficult to break down.
  • Siemens Gamesa developed a new type of resin for the wings that is more easily soluble, and Vestas has succeeded in freeing the resin in its wings from the other materials, i.e. to reuse epoxy in new wings.
  • Fiberglass is used in, among other things, wind turbine blades, the hull for nacelles and for covering monopoles at sea.
  • The European wind turbine industry has committed to avoid landfill disposal from 2025 at the latest.

Access the original article at Green Power Denmark: Wind turbine wings are granted a new life as building material (Danish Article)

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