Scientists have developed a new material that could enable wind turbine blade recycling and ultimately ‘transform’ the entire wind industry.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with the chemicals manufacturer Arkema Inc of Pennsylvania, have explored the use of thermoplastic resin in a wind blade developed at the laboratory.
That material could make wind turbine blades lighter, lower-cost and more recyclable, according to the research.
Thermoplastic resins are materials which can be converted into liquids in high heat and can harden again when cooled.
The scientific team argues the novel material’s properties differentiates it from thermoset resin, which is currently used for blade manufacturing and requires more energy and manpower in manufacturing, as well as the end product often ending up in landfills once it reaches the end of its lifespan.
The researchers suggest the new process could also make blades about 5% less expensive to make.
Derek Berry, Senior Engineer at NREL, said: “With thermoset resin systems, it’s almost like when you fry an egg. You can’t reverse that.
“But with a thermoplastic resin system, you can make a blade out of it. You heat it to a certain temperature, and it melts back down. You can get the liquid resin back and reuse that.”