Vestas Leads Industry-Academic Wind Blade Recycling Coalition

Vestas Leads Industry-Academic Wind Blade Recycling Coalition

Danish wind turbine company Vestas Wind Systems, along with Olin Corporation, Danish Technological Institute, and Aarhus University, announced today that a coalition of industry and academic leaders has developed a new technology to enable circularity for thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbine blades.

To enable the adoption of this new technology, and to advance a circular economy across the wind industry, a new initiative entitled CETEC (Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites) has been established. Within three years, CETEC is aiming to present a fully scoped solution ready for industrial adoption, based on commercialisation of the novel circularity technology.

Vestas will be spearheading the CETEC, which is partly funded by Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD). Other members of CETEC include Olin, the world leading producer of Epoxy, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), and Aarhus University.

Vestas recently slipped down to the third position from its former first place in a new ranking of top wind turbine manufacturers for 2020 released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The company also made headlines in February 2021 when it appointed Purvin Patel as Regional President of its Asia Pacific branch in order to strengthen the firm’s presence and market position in the region.

Developed by DreamWind, an innovation initiative driven by the same partners, the new CETEC technology consists of a two-step process. Firstly, thermoset composites are disassembled into fibre and epoxy. Secondly, through a novel chemcycling process, the epoxy is further broken up into base components similar to virgin materials. These materials can then be reintroduced into the manufacturing of new turbine blades, constituting a new circularity pathway for epoxy resin.

Wind turbines are 85-90 percent recyclable, with turbine blade material constituting the remaining percentage that cannot be recycled, due to the nature of thermoset composites. CETEC is aiming to close this recycling gap and enable a significant step forward in the elimination of waste across the wind energy industry.

Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, Head of Sustainability and Advanced Materials, 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,” adding that the venture will enable a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning.

Simon Frølich, Team Manager, PhD, Danish Technological Institute, said, “The development of CETEC’s novel technology, enabling disassembly of the composite at end-of-life, is a gamechanger, that will allow us to capture the value represented by each material stream in a new circular value chain.”

The coalition states that CETEC’s solution will address the lack of available recycling technology for epoxy resins. This would in turn create the possibility to introduce new recycling solutions to the wind industry. This holds significant potential for commercial value capture, particularly in markets where regulation around waste management for manufacturing industries is tightening to serve a broader sustainability agenda. When fully developed, the solution may also have an impact for other industries that rely on thermoset composite in production, such as automotive and aviation.

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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.