Vestas Leads Coalition Developing Technology to Make Recyclable Wind Turbine Blades

The coalition has launched an initiative to develop technology that transforms materials used to make wind turbine blades into a circular economy, where the constituent materials can be reintroduced into the manufacture of new blades

A view of a wind turbine manufactured by Vestas in use at a wind farm in MacArthur, Australia, Courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

A view of a wind turbine manufactured by Vestas in use at a wind farm in MacArthur, Australia, Courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

Danish wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas is leading a coalition that aims at making wind turbine blades with material that is fully recyclable. Leaders from the industry and academia have teamed up to transform thermoset composites (the material used to make blades) into fibre and epoxy, making it up to 85-90% recyclable.

The second step of the process will break the epoxy down to its constituent materials, creating a circular pathway for the epoxy since it can be reused to make new blades. The initiative has been called Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites (CETEC), and members are hopeful that they should have a comprehensive solution ready for industry-wise application in the next 3 years.

CETEC is led by Vestas and is partially funded by the Innovation Fund Denmark. The initiative includes leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise such as Olin, a global leader in Epoxy production, the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University, Denmark. The technology is being developed by DreamWind, the name of the initiative started by the coalition.

Allan Korsgaard Poulsen, Head of Sustainability and Advanced Materials, Vestas Innovation and Concepts said: “Leveraging this new technological breakthrough in chem-cycling epoxy resin, the CETEC project will be a significant milestone in Vestas’ journey towards enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning.”

Leif Ole Meyer, TS&D Leader EMEAI at Olin said: “To develop technologies which close an existing gap of thermosets by creating a circularity is yet another example of putting our Resource Efficiency sustainability goal into action. This innovation will help the industry to minimize consumption of virgin material sources and increase the reuse and recycling of materials.”

The nature of thermoset composites prevents it from becoming 100% recyclable. CETEC has also committed to closing this gap, injecting new recycling solutions to the wind industry. This is of particular interest commercially. Markets around the world are framing tighter waste management policies for manufacturing industries in order to serve the sustainability agenda with increasing efficiency.