UK wind blade recycling plant pilot secures £2 million funding

Government grant to provide bulk of funding for £2 million (€2.4 million) project to recover blades’ glass-fibre component

Composite blades are difficult to recycle, but the University of Strathclyde has developed a method to extract and recover the glass-fibre component for reprocessing (pic: Aker Offshore Wind)

A consortium of companies and academic institutions in the UK has secured a government grant for a pilot project to develop the country’s first wind turbine blade recycling plant.

The £2 million (€2.38 million), three-year project, which involves offshore wind developer Aker Offshore Wind, trade body Composites UK, the University of Strathclyde and other commercial and academic partners, will run a pilot project in order to develop a commercially viable solution.

Aker and Strathclyde Uni had announced their cooperation on the project earlier this year.

Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, has awarded £1.3 million to the project, with Aker Offshore Wind contributing more than £500,000. 

The University of Strathclyde has developed a method to separate the glass-fibre and resin components in composites and recover the glass-fibre component for reprocessing, moulding and reusing in other industries, such as the motor trade and construction sectors.

Wind turbine blades are currently sent to landfill or waste-to-energy plants. With waste from wind turbine blades expected to reach around two million tonnes globally by 2050, the industry is working hard on improved recycling options.

In September, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) announced the launch of blades using a new type of resin that would make it possible to efficiently separate it from the other components at end of life, enabling the materials to be recycled for new purposes.

Aker Offshore Wind supports trade body WindEurope’s call for a Europe-wide landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades by 2025. It said this project will be “a crucial step towards setting a new standard for the industry”.

“This project is a vital step towards establishing a commercial recycling route for composite materials in the UK and beyond, covering both wind turbine blades and several other applications in the construction and transport sectors,” said Malcolm Forsyth, sustainability manager at Composites UK and overall project leader.

Other participants in the project include Nottingham University, global waste management firm Suez, composite distributor GRP Solutions and composite part manufacturer Cubis.