Vestas to scale up blade recycling partnership in the US

Global wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has been delivering a blade recycling partnership for several wind farm operators across the USA and is now open to offering this solution in more regions where customer demand can be established and the local recycling infrastructure is robust.
Vestas to scale up blade recycling partnership in the US
Courtesy of NREL

The first large scale project was successfully completed in September, and saw Vestas service teams decommission and recycle 10 turbine blades. Several ongoing projects are currently in progress across multiple sites, including the 151 MW Blue Canyon 2 repowering project, as well as the 63 MW Snyder Wind project with Enel Green Power. Recycling of the decommissioned blades was a firm requirement from the operators of both projects. At present, all ongoing recycling projects in the USA have reached a scale of 285 turbines blades in total, including nacelle covers and hub covers.

As part of the solution, Vestas teams scope an optimal recycling project plan to align with locally available solutions and customer needs. The recyclable glass fibre material is then separated from the turbine and cut into transportable units. The material is then transported to vetted recycling partners, using a glass fibre recycling method that aligns with the customer’s sustainability ambitions.  Recycling methods can include cement co-processing, gasification, forming new composite materials, and reclaiming glass fibre and carbon fibres.

“Nurturing a robust recycling infrastructure to support the waste management challenge across the renewables industry is an urgent and critical issue” said Lisa Ekstrand, Senior Director and Head of Sustainability, Vestas. “Glass fibre recycling methods are now at a point where they can be scaled up rapidly, and with renewable plant owners becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their decommissioned assets, it’s no longer a question of demand or volume. At Vestas, we’re ready to support the scaling up of glass fibre recycling worldwide, leveraging our global transport and logistics footprint, and we’re ready to offer recycling partnership solutions wherever we see an opportunity with local recycling partners and where it is valued by customers.”

Peter Perrault, Director and Head of Circular Economy, Enel North America, added that supporting a more sustainable future for wind power is a key priority for Enel.

“We are determined to accelerate the adoption of blade recycling practices across our projects when they reach the decommissioning phase” Mr Perrault said. “Working with Vestas unlocks new possibilities for our circularity ambitions, as it enables to us to add scale to our recycling efforts.”

To help drive more maturity in industrial recycling, Vestas is currently part of the DecomBlades project, a cross-sector initiative striving to increase the adoption of recycling practices by developing pathways for commercialisation. As global installed capacity of renewables is set to increase significantly over the coming decade, Vestas is also working to support the adoption of a circular economy across the renewables industry. Vestas is currently spearheading the CETEC project, a consortium of academic and industry leaders, aiming to commercialise a new circularity technology for turbine blades.

Vestas is accelerating recycling solutions as part of its service offering as market conditions around waste management continue to evolve. With a 52 000 tons of blades waste predicted to exist by 2050 in Europe, and more than two million tons in the USA by 2050, the need for scalable recycling pathways is increasing. In Europe, the wind industry has called for a ban on landfill use for turbine blades by 2025, and regulation around waste management and circularity practices is tightening in some markets.

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