A group of industrial companies, research groups and wind power developers is aiming to design and produce the world’s first completely recyclable blade.
Blade manufacturer LM Wind Power will design and build two prototype blades using thermoplastic resin, supplied by French chemicals company Arkema.
Members of the newly formed Zebra project (zero waste blade research) plan to produce the 60-80-metre prototypes within three-and-a-half years.
They hope to develop manufacturing processes to reduce energy consumption and waste from production, and assess the environmental and economic viability of the thermoplastic blade.
Traditionally, turbine blades are made of composite materials such as glass fibre (for older blades) or carbon fibre (for newer ones).
Between 85% and 90% of a wind turbine’s total mass can be recycled today, but while recycling technologies exist, they are not yet all available at an industrial-scale and are not yet economically competitive.
However, Arkema’s thermoplastic resin can be recycled through depolymerisation – converting polymers, or a chain of single molecules, into individual molecules called monomers – or dissolution, the project partners explained.
Other Zebra members include energy company and renewables developer Engie, glass fibre and composites producer Owens Corning, and polymer company Canoe.
The €18.5 million project will be led by French research centre IRT Jules Verne, and funded through the French higher education, research and innovation department's future investments program.