Where do wind turbines go when they die?

A Vestas-led coalition has unveiled new technology that recycles thermoset composites, the material used in the manufacture of wind turbines

The Big Zero report

Ever wondered what happens to a wind turbine once its turbines have stopped spinning?

A consortium spearheaded by the manufacturer giant Vestas has unveiled technology that could signify the end of wind turbine waste as it is claimed it can enable full recyclability of blades.

Wind turbines are currently up to 90% recyclable, with turbine blade material constituting the remaining percentage that cannot be recycled, due to the properties of thermoset composites.

The solution breaks down thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbines, into fibre and epoxy which is a thermosetting polymer.

The epoxy is then further broken up into components similar to virgin materials through a process named ‘chemcycling’.

These materials can then be reused for the manufacturing of new turbine blades.

The consortium consists of the epoxy producer Olin, the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University.

Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, Head of Sustainability and Advanced Materials at Vestas Innovation and Concepts, said: “As global commitments to a net zero future increase, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure the wind industry can scale sustainably, which includes Vestas fulfilling our ambition to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040.”

Professor at Aarhus University Dr Troels Skrydstrup said: “Chemcycling of epoxy-based materials would allow deconstructing these highly stable polymer chains into molecular building blocks.

“These building blocks are easily processable and can be utilised to produce new epoxy, which will have the same quality as the original material.”

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