The BRIO project, headed by Iberdrola and partners Tecnalia and Gaiker-IK4, have developed a new system to recycle wind turbine blades from wind farms.
BRIO is a part of the European LIFE+ program. It is an initiative that focuses on creating a new sustainable system to manage and recycle wind turbine blades that are not used anymore as a result of wind farms shutting down at the end of their service life or because the blades themselves are replaced due to malfunction. The aim behind recycling these massive structures is to recover the materials used to manufacture them, so that they can then be used as minor raw materials in other products.
During the pilot-scale demonstration of the final phase of the BRIO project, the people who attended the event had a chance to observe a mechanical recycling process where materials were separated automatically from the blades using optical technology. This was followed by crushing to get blends of short fibers and polymer materials and recovered fractions of long fibers for probable use in other sectors.
The recovered long fiber will be re-used to strengthen prefabricated concrete parts, while the rest of the blade material possessing insulating properties will be used in cores in multi-layer panels for construction needs.
The emergence of BRIO was due to the growing need to address the issues of waste products from the blades of wind turbines. Currently, management of these waste materials is an emerging environmental issue as the wind turbine sector is a recent development, and also because a major volume of material has not so far been generated.
However countries like Germany have already issued a ban of dumping untreated solid urban waste. Consequently, materials such as wind turbine blades have to find suitable formulas so that they can be recycled.
Accordingly, the BRIO project aims to foresee feasible solutions designed to improve the processes to take apart the farms, by suitably providing the waste management of this type of materials.
The plan is to frame legislative recommendations and guides to good practices within the jurisdiction of the EU to regulate these matters.
The advantage will be in terms of a reduction in the management costs relating to dismantling, as well as a decrease in the environmental effects of the service life cycle of wind farms.