End-of-life composite wind turbine blades have long formed a dilemma. Finding a way to recycle dismantled rotor blades has, to date, had little success. Current disposal solutions have consisted mainly of dumping the blades in landfills or burying these in abandoned mines.
Last year, the European wind industry called upon the European Commission to propose a Europe-wide ban on landfilling decommissioned wind turbine blades, that should preferably enter into force by 2025 and cover other large composite components in the nacelles of the wind turbines. The industry also actively committed to re-use, recycle, or recover 100% of decommissioned wind turbine blades - and not to send decommissioned blades from Europe to other countries outside of Europe for landfilling.
This industry commitment is well-timed, as the problem will only become increasingly acute: turbine blades will account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050, according to a 2017 University of Cambridge study.
In the Netherlands, a consortium called Decom North has now announced that it has come up with a solution. The consortium, consisting of partners from across the value chain, has concluded a covenant that marks the start of a closed chain for the supply, dismantling and recycling of wind turbine blades. Signed at Eemshaven, a seaport in the north of the Netherlands, the covenant provides for a full-circle solution where the parties will handle the entire process, making Eemshaven the first in the world in wind turbine recycling.
The rotor blades of the decommissioned wind turbines will be transported to the recycling plant in the vicinity of Eemshaven, where they will be shredded and processed in a number of steps until granules remain. These granules will be the raw material for new products such as bank revetments, moulds, bridges, crane mats and much more.