This photo of the file, taken on July 31, 2018, shows workers checking the quality of newly manufactured wind turbine blades at a factory in China.
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A collaboration between academia and industry is to focus on recycling fiberglass products, in a move that could eventually help reduce the waste produced by wind turbine blades.
In an announcement Thursday, the University of Strathclyde, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland, said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Aker Offshore Wind and Aker Horizons.
Among other things, the trio will work together to scale up and commercialize a lab-developed process focused on recycling glass-reinforced polymer composites used in wind turbine blades.
According to the university, the system focuses on “heat recovery and post-treatment of glass fibers” from composite scraps of glass fiber reinforced polymers, resulting in “near virgin quality glass fibers”. The idea is that, using this system, composite waste could be reused.
“This is a challenge not only for the wind industry, but for all industries that depend on fiberglass materials for their production and production,” said in a statement Liu Yang, who heads the Advanced Composites group at the ‘University of Strathclyde.
“Maintaining and redistributing the energy embedded in the fibers is essential as we move towards a more circular economy,” he added.
The problem of what to do with wind turbine blades when they are no longer needed is a headache for the industry. This is because the composite materials the blades are made from can prove difficult to recycle, which means that many end up in landfills at the end of their useful life.
As the number of wind turbines on the planet increases, the problem will get even bigger. Strathclyde says blade waste could reach 400,000 tons per year in 2030.
In recent years, numerous companies in the sector have tried to find solutions to the problem.
Last December, for example, GE Renewable Energy and Veolia North America signed a “multi-year agreement” to recycle blades removed from onshore wind turbines in the United States.
In an announcement at the time, GE Renewable Energy said the blades would be shredded at a Veolia North America site in Missouri before being “used as a substitute for coal, sand and clay in cement manufacturing plants in the United States.” .
In January 2020, Danish wind energy giant Vestas said it plans to produce “zero waste” wind turbines by 2040.