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Dec 2022

Landfills could soon be inundated with wind turbine blades

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | Sep 2022

Tens of thousands of wind turbine blades will end up in landfills by the end of the decade unless end-of-life programmes are established soon, according to a new study End-of-life policy considerations for wind turbine blades led by the University of South Australia.
 
Recycling wind turbine blades is quite challenging as these are made of either carbon fibre or glass fibre composite material, both of which are expensive to break down and the recovered materials have minimal market value.
 
With a lifetime of 20-25 years for a wind turbine, it is predicted that the cumulative composite waste from blades that will have to be recycled will be in the tens of thousands of tons worldwide by 2050. This poses a potential significant waste legacy that must be addressed.
 
As it is so expensive to recycle them, and the recovered materials are worth so little, it is not realistic to expect a market-based recycling solution to emerge, so policymakers need to step in now and plan what the world is going to do with all these blades that will come offline in the next few years.
 
In many parts of the world, wind turbine blades are currently dumped in landfill, but this practice has been banned in some European countries, and with estimates suggesting there will be more than 40m tons of blade waste worldwide by 2050, alternative solutions are urgently being sought.
 
The research indicates the most likely viable option is a product stewardship or extended producer responsibility approach, where the cost of recycling the blades is factored into either the cost of their manufacture or the cost of their operation.
 
The study points out that it is likely that consumers will ultimately bear some of the end-of-life cost through energy tariffs, but market competition between energy producers should help to minimise the impact of that on the public.
 
Without such solutions, energy options like wind and solar may prove to be no more sustainable than the old technologies they are aiming to replace. M 
 
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