- Researchers say wind turbine blades can be reused as bridges, telephone towers or fences
- Turbine blades are difficult to recycle due to their massive size and durable materials
- The following text is a transcript of the published video
- You can find more of this information on the Onet homepage
teller: Until recently, it was nearly impossible to recycle wind turbine blades. It should be replaced approximately every 20 years.
Now one of the companies is the first in the US to shred shovels so they can be used in cement production. Is this the best way to get rid of old shovels?
Cement production is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Could producing it in this way really reduce emissions?
We traveled to Missouri to see if recycling wind turbine blades could help reduce the world’s growing amount of waste.
The first wind turbines were built in the USA at the end of the 19th century, they were 18 meters high and could power about three modern homes. The average height of onshore wind turbines is currently 160 meters, and the average turbine can power more than 460 homes.
The largest offshore turbine is over 260 meters high. The blades of a land turbine are usually about 50 meters long. That’s more than four school buses parked side by side. Buckets are usually made from a mixture of fiberglass and balsa wood.
Chris Howell, Chief Operating Officer, Veolia: This material is incredibly durable. The challenge is to reverse that engineering and physically disassemble the materials.
teller: In recent years, turbine blades have accumulated in landfills. This is the problem that Veolia decided to solve. He gets the scoops from General Electric for Renewable Energy.
These scoops are only 8 to 12 years old. They come from all over the United States and go to Louisiana, Missouri. There, workers cut it before sending it to the shredder.
Matthew Jensen, Field Operations Officer: The biggest challenge is to cut them so that they can be let go through the shredder without damaging anything.
teller: This machine is powerful enough to crush 6m of football into pieces the size of a football. The pieces of the hoes go to the next shredder. Then the sorting machine separates the remaining large pieces.
Chris: It’s hard to believe that it was once a 36-meter wind turbine blade.
teller: Veolia also processes non-hazardous medical waste. Some are mixed with materials from the blades. Currently, GE pays Veolia to recycle the blades, and Veolia pays to ship the finished product to the cement plant.
Chris: Currently we do not have profits. Our motive is to prevent these materials from being dumped in landfills.
teller: Cement factories burn turbine blades as fuel. Veolia says its product burns cleaner than charcoal. However, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of the cement industry. This is because most emissions do not come from burning coal but from heating limestone in giant furnaces.
The cement industry currently produces about 8% of all greenhouse gases, which is three times more than the aviation industry. So is producing new cement the best we can do with turbine blades?
This may not reduce emissions from cement production, but it will prevent shovels from ending up in landfills. However, not everyone agrees that slashing and burning blades is the best solution.
Larry Bank, Scientist, Rewind Network: In my opinion, this is a huge waste of energy and resources that were used in the production of blades.
teller: Scholars like Larry Bank say reusing shovels is a better option.
Larry: Instead of getting rid of it as waste, we look for ways to give it a second life or use it in another industry.
teller: Larry and other researchers at Re-Wind are building a pedestrian bridge in Ireland. They also suggest converting wind turbines into cell phone towers and fences.
Larry: We hope that these demonstration projects will convince people that reusing shovels is a viable alternative.
teller: They are not the only ones taking care of him. Architects in the Netherlands used old shovels to build a stadium and monument. Another company in Denmark built a bike shelter. So why not use turbine blades on more of these projects?
Larry: Mainly because throwing it in the landfill is cheap. Legislation unlikely to be introduced in the US, landfill would be the preferred option.
teller: After this video was first posted, Veolia responded that reusing the shovels was an interesting idea, but these designs weren’t enough to deal with the growing waste problem.
Chris: These applications are not sufficient for the sustainable management of used wind turbine blades.
teller: As more and more turbines are installed in America, the waste problem will only increase. There are already more than 70,000 in the United States. turbines.
And thanks to offshore wind power expansion plans, there could be 2,000 more in the next decade. The Infrastructure Act of 2021 assumes the allocation of at least $100 million. for wind energy development.
One study predicts that by 2050, the global amount of waste from turbine blades will exceed 47 million tons. Even if it did, it would still be about one-eighth of the plastic discarded each year.
Larry: This does not matter much compared to most other industrial processes.
teller: For both Veolia and Re-Wind, finding an answer to what to do with shovels is a challenge.
Chris: It’s a cliche, but what is one person’s rubbish may be another person’s treasure. We have a limited number of resources. We have to find creative ways to find out New resources, and they may come from materials we’ve already used.
Larry: If we can find a reuse of this material, it will be beneficial for everyone.
Author: Amelia Kosciulek And the Katie Nixdorff
rally. Peter Nalazek
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