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HSE blade A double-edged


As investment in wind power continues to grow, questions have arisen over the environmental impact of wind turbine construction and, as legacy platforms begin to reach the end of their life cycle, their


recyclability. Nicholas Kenny speaks to Ray Lewis, market segment manager of wind energy at Diab, and Barry Thompson, CEO of Alpha 311, to learn more about these issues and the ways in which the industry is trying to adapt around them.


limate change’s presence becomes more and more difficult to dismiss each year, as people witness once-in-a-lifetime weather events breaking out with increasing regularity. Parts of the US are already witnessing heatwaves and forest fires that have grown more frequent and severe as time goes on. The battle, then, is not something that needs preparing for in the future, but is very much taking place today. Wind energy is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways of producing green energy, and has become the cornerstone of many governments’ carbon neutrality plans. 2020 was a record-breaking year for wind turbine installation – spurred on in part due to the deadlines for feed-in tariffs and subsidies in China and the US – with 114GW of new wind capacity added globally, representing an 82% increase year-over-year according to Wood Mackenzie. Such rapid development


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brings many challenges, most recently supply chain robustness and, now, sustainability – especially given the nature of renewables and the expectations around them. As many turbines start reaching the end of their lifespan, the industry is only just coming to terms with their recyclability problems.


About 85% of turbine components – including steel, copper wire, electronics and gearing – can be recycled or reused, but turbine blades present a number of challenges. During the early years of turbine production, balsa wood or PVC foam were, essentially, the only component choice for blade cores. The core sits within a skin of resin, fibres and core, leading to one of the main issues with recycling: that there are at least three different materials to separate – although, often, it’s just a mixture of different types of resins and fibres, making the recycling process very difficult.


World Wind Technology / www.worldwind-technology.com


mamanamsai/Shutterstock.com


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