GE Renewable Energy has entered into an agreement with several German and French-Swiss companies to dismantle, crush and co-process some of Europe’s wind turbine blades.
Most of these onshore turbines are near approaching the end of their lives and finding a way to repurpose them could help purge the emissions associated with the turbine’s entire life cycle.
The basis of the current European agreement actually stems from a 2020 deal GE and Veolia North America (VNA) signed to recycle blades removed from its U.S. onshore turbines during upgrades and repowering.
VNA will shred the blades consisting of fiberglass and balsa wood, to create material suitable for use in connection with the co-production of Portland cement.
This could ensure a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions due to the cement industry’s avoided consumption of coal, silica and limestone.
GE Renewable Energy is seeking to pursue the same strategy in Europe: It has teamed up with Germany’s Neowa to dismantle, remove and shred up to 90% of the mass of its decommissioned onshore blades in the country.
Neowa will then pass on those shredded pellets to select manufacturers for the co-processing and manufacture of cement.
In another project, GE Renewable Energy, LafargeHolcim and COBOD, are working on 3D printing wind turbine bases from concrete.
When asked if this concrete will include chunks of recycled wind blades, Arvind Rangarajan, a technical leader at GE Renewable Energy, said that it was part of the company’s much longer-term vision, making it a really good example of true circularity.
“We may be able to substitute the gravel aggregate in concrete with small chunks of blade,” opines Rangarajan. “If you’re breaking up the blades and mixing them up with cement for roads or foundations, it can essentially happen anywhere.”
He contends it is quite possible that the shredded blade pieces could end up in the concrete that paves Europe’s roads.
This is significant as swapping out gravel for blade chunks might also see turbine recycling come full circle.
According to the scientist, the shredded matter could turn out to be the aggregate in the concrete foundations and towers of new wind turbines.
Image and content: AP Images/GE Reports