Ørsted-led consortium researching blade decommissioning

Wind developers and turbine manufacturers are working with research institutions and cement and reprocessing companies to make Denmark a ‘frontrunner’ in establishing recycling solutions within the wind industry

Blade manufacturer LM Wind Power is one of the ten project partners

Ten comapnies have embarked on a three-year research project to commercialise the recycling of wind turbine blades using sustainable solutions, which includes developing a pilot pyrolysis facility dedicated to the treatment of blade materials.

The consortium's ten members include Vestas, Ørsted, GE Renewable Energy-owned LM Wind Power and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE). Its members come from across the recycling value chain, from supply of materials, to processing, to implementation.

The new DecomBlades consortium has a total budget of DKK 40 million (€5.4m) to push forward the project – made up of DKK 18 million from their own pockets and DKK 22 million from investors Innovation Fund Denmark.

The group will investigate and develop solutions to recycle the composite material in wind turbine blades.

The project focuses on three specific processes: the shredding of wind turbine blades to be reused in different products and processes, the use of shredded blade material in cement production and finally, a method to separate the composite material under high temperatures, known as pyrolysis.

A pilot pyrolysis facility will be developed by power plant-construction company Makeen Power, which is seeking to commercialise pyrolysis facilities for recycling composite materials.

Today 85-95% of a wind turbine can be recycled, but cost-efficient recycling of composite materials remains a challenge. On a global scale, an estimated 2.5 million tons of composite materials are currently in use in wind turbines, according to the consortium.

John Korsgaard, LM Wind Power’s senior director of engineering and chair of the DecomBlades steering committee, said: “The wind power industry is committed to finding a sustainable way to dispose of these decommissioned wind turbine blades with respect to the environment, health and safety of workers, energy consumption and cost, and we simply don’t yet have solutions that meet all those criteria.”

He added: “In pursuit of a carbon neutral society, recycling end-of-life materials and switching to alternative materials in cement production can play a significant role in reducing CO2 emissions. 

“The DecomBlades project focuses on recycling technologies which can be upscaled to recycle the expected volumes of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the coming decades. The investment and commitment from this cross-sector consortium represents the next step to further the growth of these recycling industries.”

The ten project partners:

Ørsted is taking the lead on the project.

The University of Southern Denmark will conduct environmental and economic performance assessments of the different supply chains.

The Technical University of Denmark will research the fields of material characterisation, engineering, assessment of material properties of reused glass fibers, surface properties and investigate the possibilities of increasing the quality and value of fibers obtained from pyrolysis.

Makeen Power is to lead the work on pyrolysis technology and will design and build a pilot pyrolysis facility dedicated to treatment of blade materials. It also wants to help establish a market for recovered solids to replace new materials.

HJHansen Recycling will lead the work for all three technologies and work to find solutions on shredding of the blade materials.

Enginneering firm FLSmidth is to investigate the possibilities of using shredded blade material and products from the pyrolysis process in the cement production process. 

Vestas is providing blade samples for testing purposes. 

SGRE will help research blade structure and design, review market expectations and the commercialisation of recycling composites.

LM Wind Power will lead the consortium’s work to establish product disposal specifications for wind turbine blades.

National innovation network Energy Cluster Denmark will develop new research and development projects based on the opportunities emerging from the technical solutions being developed and matured during the DecomBlades project.