GE Renewable to Dismantle Decommissioned Wind Turbines in Germany

California-based GE Renewable Energy and German company Neowa GmbH have signed an MoU for a multi-year agreement to dismantle decommissioned Germany-based onshore wind turbines and recycle a variety of components—including blades—during partial and full repowering, contributing to the lifecycle circularity of the wind industry.

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The companies will also jointly explore the potential to expand Neowa’s unique blade recycling technology for other countries in Europe.

GE believes that this announcement is the next step in its focus on bringing circular solutions to the European market, at a time when the European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan – one of the main blocks of the European Green Deal. Nearly 10 GW of aging turbines in Europe will be repowered or decommissioned by 2025.

As a part of the current agreement, Neowa will provide deinstallation services to GE Renewable Energy and its customers, including dismantling and removing decommissioned turbines from the turbine pad, as well as recycling various components. The company will recycle up to 90% of the mass of the wind turbine and utilize its proprietary process and tools to shred wind turbine blades—including the glass fibers—into pellets of varying sizes, to be used as a feedstock in the production of cement.

Wind turbines, made up of composite materials, already have a recyclability rate of 85% to 90%. Making turbines 100% recyclable is an important task for the wind industry as the EU heads towards a circular economy. Composite materials are being recycled today through cement co-processing, where the cement raw materials are being partially replaced by the glass fibres and fillers in the composite, and the organic fraction replaces coal as a fuel.

Through that process, the CO2 output of the cement manufacturing process can be significantly reduced (up to 16 % reduction is possible if composites represent 75 % of cement raw materials), which is why recycling is an important issue in the wind industry.

Neowa has a successful history of supplying composite materials to the cement industry. The cement resulting from this process can ultimately be used to build cement foundations and towers for new turbines, utilizing approximately 20%+ less CO2 compared to conventional processes, and continuing the lifecycle circularity of the product. Through GE’s agreement with neowa, nearly 100% of the blade material, by weight, will be processed and ready for reuse.

Jérôme Pécresse, CEO of GE Renewable Energy said, “This is a truly exciting next step in our journey to introduce new circular lifecycle improvements for the wind industry in Europe. We are delighted to work with Neowa – a well-respected company with extensive experience in this area – on this critical next step, which will help to improve the sustainability of wind power.”

GE announced a similar multi-year deal with Veolia North America last year, to recycle blades removed from turbines during repowering activities in the United States.

Frank Kroll, Managing Director at Neowa, said, “Neowa is delighted to bring our longtime experience in this area to work together with GE Renewable Energy, helping to enable the further recycling of wind turbine blades into the next generation of smart waste solutions.”

In general, the wind industry produces far less composite waste than other industries. It produces less composite waste than the building and construction sector, the electrical and electronics sector, the transportation sector, and the marine sector. And it does this, while also generating clean energy. Thus, the current initiative being undertaken by GE and Neowa, which pushes the boundaries of recyclability in the wind industry, is a welcome one.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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