The management of wind energy waste is a slow but growing concern in the industry. This waste does not yet stand at significant volumes as the wind business has only been developed fairly recently. However, to address the concern of managing this non-hazardous waste going forward, EDP Renewables, a global provider in the renewables’ sector and one of the world’s largest wind energy producers, announced a cooperation agreement with Thermal Recycling of Composites (TRC).
TRC is a spin-off of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), for the implementation of a wind-turbine blade recycling program — and the launch of the new R3FIBER system.
This pilot initiative will apply to faulty or damaged turbine blades that need to be replaced and, in the future, blades from EDPR wind farms that have reached the end of their life cycle.
R3FIBER technology was developed by TRC and a team at CSIC’s National Center for Metallurgical Research led by Félix López Gomez.
The technology is based on fully using materials without producing waste, through a process of thermochemical transformation that converts the resins of combustible gases and liquid fuels into glass or carbon fibers that can then be reused. If the blades contain carbon fibers, there are no limitations on the use of composites or on the management of material, since the technology is applicable to components made from both fiberglass and carbon fiber.
R3FIBER technology fully harnesses mass, energy and the reuse of materials. It is the only technology that creates high-quality fibers (without resins) that are suitable for reuse. It is sustainable because it does not generate waste, and efficient because it allows for maximum energy recovery.
An important initiative
Spain is ranked fourth in the world for installed wind power capacity, behind China, the United States, and Germany. Of all Spanish wind farms, 60% are more than 15 years old, and some of them will reach the end of their lifecycle in the coming years. This pioneering project, undertaken by EDPR and TRC, could solve the problem of dealing with this waste, reducing the environmental impact of wind energy.
Wind turbines are made of recyclable material, mainly metals. Therefore, the main challenge currently lies in the blades, which are composed of complex materials. The role of companies such as EDPR is essential for the transition toward a sustainable economy, and particularly in supporting solutions that address the challenge of recycling wind turbine blades at the end of their lifespan.
The signing was attended by João Manso Neto, CEO of EDPR, Oriol Grau, CEO of TRC, and Javier Etxabe, who represented CSIC’s Vicepresidency for Knowledge Transfer as head of the Results Protection and Promotion of Technology-Based Companies Unit.