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On September 23, 2020, the ZEBRA project announced its goal of developing and manufacturing the first 100% recyclable wind turbine blades.
The Companies Involved in the ZEBRA Project
Several different international technology and industrial companies support the Zero wastE Blade ReseArch (ZEBRA) project. Each of them represents a separate component of the full value chain that will allow for the construction of the final 100% recyclable wind turbine blade.
Arkema Group, which was recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the 11th most sustainably managed companies in the world, is a global producer of a wide range of materials ranging from acrylics to thiochemicals. Arkema’s role in the ZEBRA project is primarily through its product Elium®, a thermoplastic resin that has already been successfully integrated into various wind turbine blades. Some of the key advantages of Elium® include its energy efficiency, cost savings, durability, and recyclable properties.
While Elium® is manufactured through many of the same processes responsible for the production of other liquid epoxy resins, its energy consumption requirements are much lower, as this specific resin does not require mold heating. In addition to eliminating the need to heat wind turbine components during their assembly, the Elium® has also demonstrated exceptional durability properties compared to parts made from conventional thermoset composites. Since the ZEBRA project is primarily focused on generating a fully recyclable wind turbine, the incorporation of Elium® is ideal, as its thermoplastic nature makes it easily recyclable.
A wind turbine blade recyclable with Elium®
Video Credit: Arkema Group/YouTube.com
A second French company involved in the ZEBRA project is CANOE, a research and development technology center dedicated to developing and manufacturing innovative materials within the composites and advances materials industries.
As an expert in polymer formulation, CANOE will incorporate its recently developed recycling process of fiber-reinforced acrylic composite materials. This innovative dissolution process provides a high added-value recovery for both separate recycled methyl methacrylate monomer and recycled fibers used in the final wind turbine system.
ENGIE has installed several projects worldwide that are estimated to reach a total installed capacity of 33 gigawatts (GW) by 2021.
ENGIE has rapidly increased wind farm installation throughout the world, including Mongolia, Mexico, India, and Australia. The international presence and reputation of ENGIE will further promote the ZEBRA project’s goal of achieving a smooth and rapid transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
LM Wind Power
Initially founded in 1940, Denmark-based renewable energy business LM Wind Power has produced over 228,000 wind turbine blades since 1978. With unique expertise in the design and manufacturing of wind turbine blades, LM Wind Power will further advance the ZEBRA Project’s 100% recyclable wind turbine.
With more than 19,000 employees in 33 countries worldwide, Owens Corning is a global leader in the production of building and industrial materials, particularly insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composites.
The High Modulus Glass technology invented by Owens Corning is a crucial aspect of the ZEBRA project. It maintains complete sustainability while ensuring advanced performance rates of the final wind turbine product.
SUEZ began business around 150 years ago and continues to employ over 90,000 employees worldwide to advance its mission of protecting human and environmental health sustainably and economically.
SUEZ is dedicated to creating a more sustainable planet by investing in large wastewater treatment plants, soil remediation plants to eliminate contaminated sludge and soil, and innovative technologies that purify the air while simultaneously producing green energy.
As a leader in the advancement of sustainably managed projects, SUEZ will bring its expertise to ensure that the best recycling techniques are used throughout the 42-month period in which the ZEBRA project will take place.
The Importance of Sustainable Wind Power
In the United States alone, the wind industry is expected to reach a total power capacity of 404.25 GW by the year 2050 across a total of 48 states. While this projection is inspiring for environmentalists, the lack of recyclable materials that are used in the conventional manufacturing of wind turbine blades limits their utility in making a real long-term and meaningful impact on the globe.
Why Thousands of Wind Turbine Blades Wind Up in Landfills
Video Credit: Bloomberg Markets and Finance/YouTube.com
Although approximately 85% of current wind turbines are composed of recyclable and/or reusable materials such as steel, copper wire, electronics and gearing, the wind turbine blades are made up of fiberglass, which is traditionally difficult to dispose of. As a result, in the United States alone, it is estimated that 8,000 wind turbine blades that have reached the end of their lifespan will end up in landfills by the end of 2024.
The ZEBRA Project's ultimate goal to create a 100% fully recyclable wind turbine blade will resolve many of the sustainability concerns that are currently putting pressure on the wind power industry.
In addition to the development of the wind turbine blade itself, the ZEBRA project partners will also invest a considerable amount of effort towards optimizing the manufacturing process of these wind turbine blades to maximize their efficiency while simultaneously reducing any excess energy consumption and waste during this production process.
With a budget of approximately 18.5 million euros, the ZEBRA project's results will inevitably have a significant impact on not only the wind power industry but every other green energy project for years to come.
References and Further Reading
New Project to Develop Fully Recyclable Thermoplastic Wind Turbine Blades [Online]. Available at: https://omnexus.specialchem.com/news/industry-news/project-recyclable-turbine-blades.
Arkema Group [Online]. Available at: https://www.arkema.com/en/arkema-group/.
New award for Arkema’s Elium® technology! [Online]. Available at: https://www.arkema.com/en/media/news/news-details/New-award-for-Arkemas-Eliumsup-sup-technology/.
Wind energy [Online]. Available at: https://www.engie.com/en/activities/renewable-energies/wind-energy.
‘ZEBRA project’ launched to develop first 100% recyclable wind turbine blades [Online]. Available at: https://www.lmwindpower.com/en/stories-and-press/stories/news-from-lm-places/zebra-project-launched.
Our purpose – SUEZ Group [Online]. Available at: https://www.suez.com/en/who-we-are/a-worldwide-leader/our-purpose.
Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills [Online]. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-05/wind-turbine-blades-can-t-be-recycled-so-they-re-piling-up-in-landfills.