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Project achieves breakthrough in recycling wind turbine blades

By processing decommissioned wind turbine blades, the DecomBlades innovation project has effectively reclaimed high-quality glass fibres, which can now be reintegrated into the production of new wind turbine blades.

The DecomBlades project

The DecomBlades project is funded by Innovation Fund Denmark, and the project partners are: MAKEEN Energy, LM Wind Power, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Ørsted, DTU Wind and Energy Systems, The University of Southern Denmark, HJ Hansen Recycling, FLSmidth, and Energy Cluster Denmark.

Over the past two decades, both private companies and research scientists have been dedicated to exploring recycling options for wind turbine blades that have reached the end of their operational life.

Today, significant progress has been made in the development of scalable and circular solutions to accommodate the increasing number of decommissioned wind turbines.

Read the case: The world’s first recyclable offshore wind turbine blades

Recycling turbines towards a circular wind industry

The DecomBlades innovation project has reached a milestone in the recycling of wind turbine blades towards a more circular wind industry.

Leveraging a large-scale pyrolysis test plant developed by MAKEEN Energy, the consortium behind the DecomBlades innovation project has succeeded in extracting and processing high-quality glass fibres, the principal wind blade component, from retired 37-meter tall wind turbines.

“At first attempt, we have succeeded in recovering and processing glass fibre that is suitable for inclusion in the raw material mix on a par with virgin material in the extremely sensitive glass fibre production process. We have achieved this important milestone not at a laboratory scale but at an industrial level. The process has real commercial prospects. It’s incredibly exciting to have reached this point,” says Irene Bach Velling Villadsen, Project Manager at MAKEEN Energy

Through a tight-knit partnership with subcontractors, and notably with the glass fibre manufacturer, 3B-Fibreglass, the project has established a strong foundation for crafting both a value chain and a sales channel dedicated to recycled glass fibre.

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Following the successful quality approval of glass fibres obtained from decommissioned wind turbine blades, the material was subjected to remelting at 3B’s facility in Norway this past September.

In a collaborative effort alongside DTU Wind and Energy Systems, both 3B and DTU will now examine and verify the properties of the generated glass fibres with remelted content.

Simultaneously with this examination, the project consortium will evaluate the environmental impacts and associated costs of replacing raw materials and their extraction process with glass fibres from decommissioned wind turbine blades, while exploring the related commercial opportunities.

“In the wind industry, we are constantly seeking novel ways to develop sustainable material flows and circular production of our products. The recent breakthrough in the project highlights the potential of reusing glass fibres from decommissioned turbine blades to produce new fibres. This presents a significant opportunity not only for recycling companies but also for glass fibre suppliers, even as the industry continues to face the challenge of effectively utilizing recycled glass fibers in the production of new blades. The latest results mark a significant step in closing the circular loop, transforming end-of-life blades into the raw materials needed to produce new continuous, long glass fibres used in manufacturing wind turbine blades,” says John Korsgaard.

To read the official press release visit: DecomBlades breakthrough in recycling wind turbine blades

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