A team at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow has figured out how to recycle glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) that are used in wind turbine blades. The university has partnered with Norwegian offshore wind developer Aker Offshore Wind and green investment company Aker Horizons to implement its new technology.

This plan could potentially prevent a huge number of wind turbine blades from ending up in garbage dumps.

Recycling old wind turbine blades

The University of Strathclyde has predicted a global increase of wind turbine blade waste from around 400,000 tons per annum in 2030 to around 2 million tons by 2050.

So Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering developed a solution for thermal recovery and post-treatment process of glass fibers from GRP composites scrap to achieve near-virgin-quality glass fibers. Strathclyde explains in a news post:

[T]he GRP recycling can turn composite waste into reusable fiber reinforcement and could serve 50% of global glass fiber demand if implemented worldwide. As the process produces both mid- to high-value fibers, a broad spectrum of the market can be covered, ranging from less demanding to high-performance products.

Recycled GRP will also be attractive to industries outside the wind power space and can be tailored for a range of different composite applications. Today, GRP… is used in sectors like car manufacturing, maritime vessels, oil and gas production, construction, and sporting goods.

Aker Horizons and Aker Offshore Wind will implement Strathclyde’s wind turbine blade recycling method with funding and experience in an industrial setting, as the two companies have expertise in chemical processing and carbon capture. The three organizations have a memorandum of understanding.

Astrid Skarheim Onsum, CEO of Aker Offshore Wind, said:

Industrial waste is a challenge in most industries, and by teaming up with the University of Strathclyde we have an opportunity to further develop a novel solution to a growing issue and apply it at scale across our segment and beyond.

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