Swedish multinational energy company Vattenfall has started recycling turbine blades from Dutch Wind farm Irene Vorrink, turning them into construction materials for solar farms, skis and snowboards. [See the image below.]
The energy company started a recycling pilot project to help its target to recycle dismantled wind turbine blades by 2030. To this end, they have also started forming partnerships with various stakeholders to drive a circular economy.
After 25 years of service, the 28 wind turbines of the Irene Vorrink Wind Farm, one of Vattenfall’s oldest wind farms in the Netherlands, is being dismantled. In place of the current 28 wind turbines, Vattenfall and SwifterwinT will erect two rows of 12 wind turbines with a total capacity of 132MW.
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Gustav Frid, senior environment and sustainability specialist at Vattenfall: “First of all, we want to learn from this process and see which companies are suitable to help us recycle the wind blades. We believe that there is no single solution for this, but rather a number of different ones.”
Vattenfall has partnered with Norwegian recycling company Gjenkraft to recover glass and carbon fibres from the blade and turn them into skis and snowboards. According to Vattenfall, this is specialised work due to the complex structure of the blades.
Marcin Rusin, Gjenkraft co-owner, explained the blades consist not only of resin and glass or carbon fibre, but also of balsa wood, PVC or PET foam, other polymers and metals. “It is almost impossible to separate the individual components, so they have to be processed together. This complicates the recycling process and the possibility of recovering residual value from the blades.
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Skis made of recycled wind turbine blades. Photo credit: Gjenkraft
“In the recycling process, we can adjust the parameters to obtain the properties that our customers expect from our products. Our products are used again to make skis or snowboards and other products that contain glass fibres and carbon fibres,” said Rusin.
Because wind turbine blades are made from strong fibres and carbon bound by duro-plastics, they are also ideal for recycling into solar panels. This is why Vattenfall has partnered with sustainability firm Billion People to make solar panels for agrivoltaic projects.
According to professor Gregor Luthe, founder of Billion People they have managed to make new duro-plastics that can be used in the construction materials of so-called agrophotovoltaics, solar panels placed above or among agricultural products. “With our material, we replace the steel and aluminium of the construction. Both these raw materials use a lot of energy in their production and are now also very scarce due to the war in Ukraine,” said Luthe.