WindEurope said on 2 July it has teamed up with Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council) and EUCIA (the European Composites Industry Association) to create a cross-sector platform to advance novel approaches to the recycling of wind turbine blades.

“Wind energy is an increasingly important part of Europe’s energy mix. The first generation of wind turbines are now starting to come to the end of their operational life and be replaced by modern turbines,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said. “Recycling the old blades is a top priority for us, and teaming up with the chemical and compositors industries will enable us to do it the most effective way,” he added.

In 2018 wind energy supplied 14% of the electricity in the EU with 130,000 wind turbines and this number will only grow in the coming decades, WindEurope said, adding that wind turbines blades are made up of a composite material, which boosts the performance of wind energy by allowing lighter and longer blades. According to WindEurope, today, 2.5 million tons of composite material are in use in the wind energy sector.

In the next five years 12,000 wind turbines are expected to be decommissioned. Broadening the range of recycling options is critical for the industry’s development.

Cefic Director General Marco Mensink noted that the chemical industry plays a decisive role in the transition to a circular economy by investing in the research and development of new materials, which make wind turbine blades more reliable, affordable and recyclable. “Innovation is born from collaboration and we look forward to working together to advance wind turbine blade recycling,” he said.

For his part, EUCIA President Roberto Frassine added the wind energy sector has always been at the forefront of using composites as they are instrumental to sustainable energy generation. “With this collaboration we hope to set a great industry standard that ultimately will also help customers in other industries like marine and building & infrastructure,” he said.

According to WindEurope, learnings from wind turbine recycling will then be transferred to other markets to enhance the overall sustainability of composites.