Researchers Develop Turbine Recycling Method


Engineering researchers at the University of Edinburgh have reportedly received a 125,000 euro ($159,123.12) grant for the development of a new wind turbine recycling process that can turn decommissioned turbine blade parts into protective coatings.

The grant was reportedly made by the investment trust Greencoat UK Wind, a specialist in renewable energy, and will help Professor Vasileios Koutsos and Dr. Dipa Roy at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering continue to develop their method of transforming decommissioned blade materials into powders for coatings to protect engineering and structural components from corrosion and erosion by the elements.

The new coating would reportedly protect wind turbine blades from raindrops and other particulates while also potentially preventing corrosion in the “built environment” on things such as cables and suspension bridges.

“The recycling of the fiber-reinforced, epoxy-based composites used in many applications, including wind turbine blades, has become of critical importance for net zero targets,” said Professor Koutsos.

“We are delighted to have been awarded the funding for this innovative project and look forward to using our materials expertise to create a novel recycling technology that is likely to have considerable commercial impact.”

Wind energy is reportedly a critical part of the United Kingdom’s drive to net zero in the renewable energy movement. The question of how to recycle wind turbine blades after their 20- to 25-year lifespan has continued to pose an engineering and environmental challenge.

Usually huge structures, these turbines are reportedly made from complex composite materials that have been bonded together with epoxy and reinforced fibers. This had previously made the task of separating and recycling more difficult and expensive. 

The research project—titled "Added-Value CoatTings (ACT)"—will reportedly run for 12 months and is backed by the University of Edinburgh’s commercialization service, Edinburgh Innovations, who helped secure the funding.

Other Turbine Blade Recycling Projects

In January, a new business in Iowa reported that it had created an eco-friendly process to convert decommissioned wind turbine blades into reusable materials for concrete, mortar and other industries.

REGEN Fiber, owned by transportation solutions company Travero, is reportedly the world’s first and only company to “free the fiber” from waste materials generated at both ends of the wind turbine blade lifecycle without using a thermal or chemical process.

According to the American Clean Power Association, wind energy is the largest renewable energy source in the United States and “nearly 70,000 wind turbines across the country are generating clean, reliable power.”

REGEN Fiber reports that by preventing decommissioned wind turbine blades from ending up in landfills or releasing combustion byproducts such as carbon to the atmosphere if burned, the solution is helping to solve the wind industry’s growing challenge of finding environmentally friendly ways for disposing of wind turbine components.

REGEN Fiber uses the patent-pending method to produce reinforcement fibers to increase the strength and durability of concrete and mortar applications, as well as produce microfibers and additives from components of the wind blade for use in a range of composite, concrete and soil stabilization applications.

Additionally, in January of 2021, civil engineers from the Cork Institute of Technology in Southern Ireland had planned to recycle wind turbines blades for a future pedestrian bridge.

Angela Nagle, a civil engineering Ph.D. student at the University College Cork, and colleagues at the Re-Wind project were investigating how wind turbine blades could be repurposed for electrical transmission towers, bridges and more.

The Re-Wind project—a collaboration among researchers in the United States, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that includes funding from all three governments—dates back to 2016 when Re-Wind team lead Larry Bank, a research faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology, began investigating the feasibility of repurposing blades for a variety of civil engineering projects.

To put the investigations into practice, Kieran Ruane, lecturer and Chartered Civil and Structural Engineer at CIT, led a team of researchers and engineers to design and construct a pedestrian bridge built with decommissioned wind blades. The blades for this project in particular, had been donated by Everun in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Ruane was supported by Re-Wind team members at University College Cork, Georgia Tech and Queens University Belfast.

To kick off the project, three 40-foot-long wind turbine blades were delivered by truck to CIT. At the institute, the blades were scheduled to undergo a series of tests that were expected to last a few months. Through design and build efforts, the team hoped to find a way to use the wind blades as a replacement of traditional steel girders found in bridges.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Energy efficiency; Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Latin America; Net Zero Energy ; North America; Powder Coatings; Program/Project Management; Sustainability; Wind Farm; Wind Towers; Z-Continents

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