Siemens Gamesa has launched a fully recyclable blade that can withstand the rigors of application in an offshore wind turbine. This is a significant step towards the company’s ambition of producing the world’s first recyclable offshore wind turbines by 2040.
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World’s First Recyclable Wind Turbine Blades
Siemens Gamesa’s latest product, the RecyclableBlade, is the first wind turbine blade that can be recycled when it reaches the end of its useful lifecycle. While recyclable materials have been used for experimental, small-scale, or prototype wind turbine blades in recent years, Siemens Gamesa’s blade is the first that can be used in commercial offshore wind turbine operations.
The company has already manufactured its first six recyclable blades in a dedicated manufacturing plant in Aalborg, Denmark. Three major Siemens Gamesa clients have already placed orders for the enormous, 81-meter-long components.
RWE will pilot the recyclable turbine blades at its Kaskasi offshore wind turbine facility in Germany. The plant will produce renewable electricity using recyclable blades from 2022.
Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Wind Offshore, RWE Renewables, said of the partnership: “We are pleased that our offshore wind farm Kaskasi is able to provide a fantastic facility for testing innovations.
This is a significant step in advancing the sustainability of wind turbines to the next level.
Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Wind Offshore, RWE Renewables
EDF Renewables has also ordered several sets of Siemens Gamesa’s recyclable blades for a future offshore wind turbine farm.
Bruno Bensasson, EDF Renewables CEO, said: “EDF Renewables’ team is fully mobilized to develop this pioneer technology with its suppliers with the aim to continuously improve the environmental sustainability of our projects.”
A third partner, WPD, completes the set of first adopters for Siemens Gamesa’s new recyclable wind turbine blades, with an agreement in place that will see WPD installing Siemens Gamesa’s blades in a future offshore wind turbine project.
Through this cooperation in the recycling technology program of Siemens Gamesa, we’re making another step forward for the industry, which makes us enthusiastic regarding sustainability of the supply chain in the future.
Achim Berge Olsen, CEO of WPD Offshore
Material Challenges for Sustainability in Wind Energy
Renewable wind energy has already made a significant contribution to our collective efforts to reduce and reverse humanity’s negative impact on our environment. It takes large amounts of potentially emitted carbon out of the atmosphere before it is even burned, by providing an effective replacement for fossil fuel energy.
However, this contribution is hampered somewhat by the material challenges faced by wind turbine operators. Wind turbines are large, complicated structures that need to perform efficiently over a long period of time in extremely adverse conditions. As such, it has until recently been difficult to process them once the components reach the end of their lifecycle.
This problem is getting worse as wind power increases. By 2020, the European Union is forecast to install 323 GW of extra wind capture, on top of the 205 GW of total wind energy plants already in operation on the continent. This will lead to wind providing 30% of the EU’s total electricity demand.
This level change in wind power capacity comes 20-30 years after the first boom in wind power in the 2000s. The first generation of wind turbines was only made with around 20 or 30 years of lifespan available, so many now need to be replaced.
A total of 28% of wind turbines in Europe are more than 15 years old. In Germany, Spain, and Denmark, the share is as much as 57%. Twenty-year support contracts from manufacturers are due to expire, and many of these turbines will be decommissioned. In the US, around 8,000 blades will be decommissioned each year in the first half of the 2020s.
Disposing all the material waste from decommissioned wind turbines is a serious challenge. Blades and nacelles need to withstand extremely high loads over several years, and so are difficult to break down mechanically. Furthermore, they are composed of various materials that strongly adhere to each other, making them even more difficult to recycle.
Responding to the Sustainability Challenge of Wind Turbine Materials
The best and most cost-effective way to address the sustainability challenges of wind turbine materials is to effectively maintain and repair existing equipment, first and foremost. This extends their operational life as much as possible, reducing the need for disposal and manufacture of new components.
Creating and using recyclable wind turbine components has until now been limited to prototype or experimental applications. However, Siemens Gamesa’s innovative products have bridged the gap to commercial offshore wind turbine projects.
The recyclable blade uses a novel resin to bond the composite materials together. This resin has a unique chemical structure allowing for its separation from the composite materials at the end of the blade’s useful life.
This chemical recycling process is non-intensive and maintains the integrity of the other materials in the blade. These high-performance materials can then be reused in new applications after they have been separated.
Next Steps: World’s First Recyclable Wind Turbines
Siemens Gamesa views the RecyclableBlade’s successful launch as an initial step in its vision to produce the world’s first recyclable wind turbines by 2040.
In pioneering wind circularity – where elements contribute to a circular economy of the wind industry – we have reached a major milestone in a society that puts care for the environment at its heart.
Andreas Nauen, Siemens Gamesa CEO
The year 2021 is already a notable year for recyclable wind turbines of the future. Dutch sustainable shipbuilder, Greenboats, installed the world’s first natural fiber composite nacelle in the Harbor of Rotterdam earlier in the year.
Gregorio Acero, Head of Quality Management & Health, Safety, and Environment at Siemens Gamesa said: “Our aspiration is to produce wind turbines that can generate renewable electricity for 20-30 years. When they reach the end of their useful life, we can separate the materials and use them for new relevant applications. The RecyclableBlade is a great step in that direction and well ahead of our 2040 goal.”
Siemens Gamesa RecyclableBlade
Video Credit: SiemensGamesa/YouTube.com
References and Further Reading
Mishnaevsky, L. (2021) Sustainable End-of-Life Management of Wind Turbine Blades: Overview of Current and Coming Solutions. Materials. https://doi.org/10.3390/ma14051124.
Pilkington, B. (2021) The First-Ever Natural Fibre Composite Nacelle for Offshore Wind Turbines. [Online] AZO Cleantech. Available at: https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1196.
Siemens Gamesa. (2021) Siemens Gamesa Launches World First Recyclable Wind Turbine Blade. [Online] Available at: https://www.siemensgamesa.com/newsroom/2021/09/launch-world-first-recyclable-wind-turbine-blade