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Wind turbine blade recycling: An evaluation of the European market potential for recycled composite materials

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  • Rosario Fonte, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy A/S
  • ,
  • George Xydis

The limited literature on the cost of various recycling methodologies for thermoset composites sets the background of this work, focusing mainly on the identification of an upper and lower economic value of glass fibre recovered from wind turbine blades recycling. The study briefly reviews the materials used by various original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for wind turbine blades. Successively, it provides an overview of the various recycling methods with interest in recovered materials, mechanical and physical properties, which are used, for estimating a maximum expected value. All recycling processes show a negative effect on mechanical properties with strength loss between 30% and 60%. Process energy demands are reviewed, and considerations are set forward to estimate the minimum cost of operating mechanical, pyrolysis and fluidized bed plants in Germany. Ultimately, current applications of recovered material and related markets are explored. Through interviews and secondary data, it is highlighted that despite the lower mechanical properties, grinded material finds applications in traditional processes, cement kilns and new products. It is also found that pyrolysed fibres can be used as insulation material and oils can be easy to distil. Pyrolysis is a relatively expensive process, thereby, distillation of the oils and energy recovery are necessary enablers towards commercial viability. Mechanically grinded material presents the lowest process cost with ca. €90/tonne, thus, below landfilling and incineration and falling within the attention of private businesses. Numerous markets are available for recovered materials from wind turbine blades, primarily for grinded products and secondly for pyrolysed glass fibre.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112269
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Economic assessment, End-of-life, Glass fibre, Recycling, Wind turbine blades

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