WindEurope asked for the prohibition of disposing wind generator blades on landfills by the year 2025. The European wind industry is actively committing to reusing, recycling, or recovering 100 percent of non-active blades – as reported by the European association.
Today the standard life span of a land wind plant is about 20-25 years. As much as 85-90 percent of the overall mass of the wind generator can already be recycled. Most of the components – including the steel, cement, copper wire, electronics, and transmitters have an established circular recycling course. However, it is much more challenging to recycle the wind generator blades as they contain complex composite materials. These composites improve the performances of the wind generators, enable lighter and sharper blades with optimized aerodynamic capacities, however, their configuration also presents a recycling challenge.
WindEurope points out that these composites are not only used in the wind generator blades but are also important materials in sectors such as aviation, auto industry, maritime transport, aeronautics, building, etc. Some technologies are available for recycling composite materials in blades and an increasing number of companies offer composite recycling services although these solutions are still not sufficiently mature, widely accessible in industrial proportions and /or competitive in regard to cost. In order for these technologies to be commercially cost-effective, as they point out in WindEurope, policy creators and the industry will have to commit in regard to the use of raw materials.
On the most developed European wind energy markets, the first turbines are nearing the end of their life span. The number of blades so far put out of use remains low but will surely increase in the course of the coming years. WindEurope expects that annually about 25 000 tonnes of blades will end their life span by the year 2025. Germany and Spain will have the largest number of inactive blades, followed by Denmark.
WindEurope points out that governments can play a decisive role in managing the circularity of wind generator blades, emphasizing that they should increase the financing of research and development in the commercialization and enhancement of various blade recycling technologies. The EU should also provide for the financing of research and development for promoting the development and use of new materials for blades.