Viable routes to recycling wind turbine blades found in NCC's sustainable wind research programme

4 May 2022

The National Composites Centre (NCC), in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, launched the SusWIND programme to drive the future sustainability of composite wind turbine components. In its first annual review, the NCC has published the key findings of the programme and sets out ambitious plans to tackle the main challenges of legacy and future blades. 

The review highlights a number of key achievements that are critical to a sustainable future of wind turbine blades, including: 

  • A full decommissioning profile of all UK blades has been developed, forecasting composite waste streams for the next 30 years and enabling our partners to make key decisions at blade end-of-life. 
  • Mechanical recycling and cement kiln co-processing have been identified as the only viable industrial scale processing routes for glass fibre composite waste for the coming decade. 
  • Development requirements of promising low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) processing routes have been defined, for end-of-life blade waste to deliver more benefit for the higher volumes of waste post-2032. 
  • A cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment has identified where targeted introduction of alternative materials in manufacturing can reduce the environmental impact of the blade. 
  • Welcomed important industry partners to collaborate in the programme, including Vestas, SSE Renewables, EDF Renewables, Shell, Net Zero Technology Centre, The Crown Estate, RenewableUK, BVG Associates and Zero Waste Scotland. 

Phil Slack, Head of Energy at the NCC, says: “Developing a circular supply chain for wind turbine blades is the ultimate goal for the SusWIND programme. Our review of the first year highlights the significant progress we have made towards that goal. 

Our ambition is to end 2022 with a meaningful investment case for critical industrial capabilities in mechanical recycling and cement kiln co-processing of glass fibre reinforced composites in the UK.” 

The SusWIND programme is the leading programme in the NCC effort to establish a viable circular supply chain for all composites and all industries in the UK. SusWind is calling for support and participation from across the full range of industrial sectors to grow a community of stakeholders. Further investment and collaboration will help the programme to create end-of-life value from past and current generations of turbine blades and share those learnings with other sectors to embed circularity at the heart of future generations of composite components. 

 

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