WindEurope Calls for Ban on Landfilling Turbine Blades

European Wind Energy Association, now WindEurope has asked for a Europe-wide landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades by 2025.

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At the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE)’s Annual Congress Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, and Juan Virgilio Márquez, General Director of AEE, yesterday called upon the European Commission to propose a Europe-wide ban on landfilling decommissioned wind turbine blades. The ban should enter into force by 2025 and also apply to other large composite components in the nacelles of modern wind turbines. Interestingly, for a sector that has come under price pressure from solar in recent years, the focus on better recycling and lower carbon footprint might yet become a significant positive, as the solar sector remains well behind in terms of preparedness for recycling effectively.

The European wind industry actively commits to re-use, recycle, or recover 100% of decommissioned blades. At the same time, the industry commits not to send decommissioned blades from Europe to other countries outside of Europe for landfilling.

Notably, the standard lifetime of an onshore wind farm is around 20-25 years. 85-90% of the total mass of a wind turbine can already be recycled. However, wind turbine blades are more difficult to recycle as they consist of a combination of reinforced fibers and a polymer matrix. These composites boost the performance of wind turbines. They allow for lighter and longer blades with optimized aerodynamics. But their configuration also poses challenges for recycling.

Hopefully, there are some technologies available to recycle the composite materials in blades, and an increasing number of companies offer composite recycling services, but these solutions are not yet mature enough, widely available at industrial scale, and/or cost-competitive. Although these are not commercially viable until commitment from policymakers, other composite users, and the recycling industry are made.

Speaking of the initiative, WindEurope CEO, Mr. Giles Dickson said, “Wind energy is a green technology. Sustainability is part of our DNA. That’s why we are constantly striving to further reduce our impact on the environment. A ban on landfilling wind turbine blades will help accelerate the development of sustainable recycling technologies. Austria, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands already have a landfill ban in place. But we call upon the European Commission to propose a harmonized European approach.”

In Europe’s most mature markets for wind energy, the first turbines are reaching the end of their operational life. Although the number of such turbines is not alarming yet, WindEurope expects around 25,000 tonnes of blades to reach the end of their operational life annually by 2025. Germany and Spain will see the highest number of decommissioned blades, followed by Denmark. Towards the end of the decade Italy, France, and Portugal will also start to significantly decommission blades and the annual decommissioned volume could double to 52,000 tonnes by 2030.

“We are not alone in this. We’ve already started developing cross-industry collaborations with other sectors that are working on composite recycling technologies. The right legislation will help support the creation of viable recycling value chains and to incentivize a market for recycled materials”, Giles Dickson added.

Stepping ahead in this direction, the wind industry will develop a roadmap, further detailing the steps required to accelerate wind turbine blade circularity. WindEurope will closely collaborate with the chemicals industry, as a provider of innovative chemical recycling solutions, as well as other composite using industries, such as the boating industry.

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Bhoomika Singh

Bhoomika is a science graduate, with a strong interest in seeing how technology can impact the environment. She loves covering the intersection of technology, environment, and the positive impact it can have on the world accordingly.

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