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149: Fiberglass wind turbine blade recycling system

Problem:

After a useful life of 25 years, almost one thousand 300ft (90m) wind turbine blades end up in a graveyard in Casper, Wyoming, USA. Normally each blade will be cut into three, and then the pieces will be stacked and buried in a landfill.

Solution:

Fiberglass wind turbine blade recycling system


Ronald Albrecht and Don Lilly of Global Fiberglass Solutions in Bellevue, Washington have developed a solution which transforms fiberglass composite blades into Ecopolycrete. The process begins at the wind farm itself, where technicians from GFSI cut dismantle blades into more manageable 120 ft (37 m) chunks.

To minimize, if not eliminate, hazardous dust, GFSI uses wet wire blades that are thin and strong enough to slice each wind blade open as cleanly as a cantaloupe. Then the company sprays a light mist of water so that debris rains into a giant dustpan lying beneath the blade. Next dismantled blades are taken to nearby yards where they are shredded into raw fiberglass material.

A single blade yields about 15-20 bags of pellets, weighing between 700 lb (317 kg) and 1,000 lb (450 kg) each. The pellets can then be turned into injectable plastics, or highly waterproof boards that can be used as manhole covers, building panels and pallets. GFSI reuses 100 % of each blade. Even the bolts that circle the blade’s end section go to a metal salvage site for recycling. GFSI have also developed a programme to track blades throughout their life cycle, and make it easier to recycle them at the end.

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