Wind turbines pose recycling challenge

According to a recent NPR report, the U.S. will be tasked with disposing of 720,000 tons of wind turbine blade material over the next two decades.

September 16, 2019

Wind has become an increasingly popular energy source across the U.S. as the push for fossil fuel alternatives has intensified and the technology has become more affordable. However, while wind turbines offer a carbon-free source of power, disposing of the turbine blades isn’t as environmentally friendly.    

According to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report, the U.S. will be tasked with disposing of 720,000 tons of blade material over the next two decades. That’s because while much of the wind turbine can be repurposed or recycled, the fiberglass and resin blades haven’t traditionally held much value, are difficult to crush, and are a challenge to transport due to their 100- to 300-foot profile.

These problems are exacerbated by the fact that most landfill operators don’t want to accept these blades since they consume a significant chunk of space.

Karl Englund, a researcher and CTO of Bothell, Washington-based Global Fiberglass Solutions, is working to combat these challenges.

According to the report, Englund’s company has found a way to recycle these blades. By grinding them into a small chip size, he says turbine blades can be used in the production of deck materials, pallets and pipes.

His first processing facility opened earlier this year in Texas and he’s already looking into leasing property in Des Moines, Iowa, for a second location, according to the report. 

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