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University of Strathclyde gives retired wind turbine blades a new lease of life

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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Wind Turbine Blades

When electric vehicle batteries reach the end of their life, more often than not they are reused as batteries for static energy storage. But what about wind turbines? 

It’s estimated that there will be a global increase of wind turbine blade waste from around 400,000 tons per annum in 2030 to around 2 million tons by 2050. That’s a significant problem we need to address if we’re looking for a more sustainable future. 

Thankfully, it’s an issue that the researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have been looking at, and they may have just cracked it. 

Researchers at the university have found a way to recycle the glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) that are used for wind turbine blades. They are now working on a way to commercialise the technology, which uses thermal recovery and post-treatment of glass fibres from GRP scrap to achieve near-virgin quality glass fibres.

The University believes that if the commercialisation is successful, recycled wind turbine blades could serve 50% of global glass fiber demand worldwide. That’s enormous for not just the renewables industry, but also other industries that use glass fiber, such as car manufacturing. 

To achieve its goal of commercialisation, the University of Strathclyde has partnered with Aker Offshore Wind and Aker Horizons. 

Astrid Skarheim Onsum, CEO of Aker Offshore Wind, commented, “At Aker Offshore Wind, sustainability is about making business decisions that add value to our company, our stakeholders and society.

“Industrial waste is a challenge in most industries, and by teaming up with the University of Strathclyde we have an opportunity to further develop a novel solution to a growing issue and apply it at scale across our segment and beyond.”

Dr Liu Yang, Head of Advanced Composites Group at the University of Strathclyde, added, “This is a challenge not only for the wind power industry, but for all industries reliant on GRP materials in their production and manufacturing.

“Retaining and redeploying the embodied energy in the fibres is essential as we move to a more circular economy.”

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