Scottish university spearheads breakthrough project to solve mounting wind turbine blade waste

The technology will transform material from retired wind turbine blades into near-virgin quality glass fibres for new ones

Big Zero Report 2022

The world could be one step closer to the solution to the alarming issue of the ever-increasing amount of wind turbine blade waste after the development of new technology by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

The university has developed a thermal recovery and post-treatment process of glass fibres from glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) scrap to achieve near-virgin quality glass fibres.

The GRP, which is used in wind turbine blades, is considered a hard-to-break-down material that usually goes to landfills.

If implemented globally, the technique is forecast to meet almost half of global glass fibre demand.

For that reason, the university signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Norwegian offshore wind developer Aker Offshore Wind and the investment firm Aker Horizons.

A recent study predicts restored wind turbine blades are likely to be a major source of GRP scrap in the UK by the mid-2030s.

The University of Strathclyde estimates wind turbine blade waste will soar from around 400,000 tonnes annually in 2030 to approximately two million tonnes by 2050.

Dr Liu Yang, Head of Advanced Composites Group at the University of Strathclyde, said: “This is a challenge not only for the wind power industry but for all industries reliant on GRP materials in their production and manufacturing.

“Retaining and redeploying the embodied energy in the fibres is essential as we move to a more circular economy.

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