Aker Offshore Wind, Aker Horizons and the University of Strathclyde have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see them work together to develop recovery processes for used glass fibre products, in particular old wind turbine blades.
The thermoset glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) used in wind turbine blades are hard to break down; the GRP scrap finds its way mostly into landfill or energy from waste. According to a February 2020 Los Angeles Times article, “tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills.”
This will become increasingly problematic as the use of wind energy spreads around the world. Blades last only 20 to 25 years. If recycling cannot be achieved, “environment-friendly” wind energy will create an enormous landfill issue. In fact, findings from the University of Strathclyde indicate a global increase of wind turbine blade waste from around 400,000 tons per annum in 2030 to around two million tons by 2050.
Under the terms of the MoU, the parties will scale up and commercialise a process developed at lab scale by Strathclyde for thermal recovery and post-treatment of glass fibres from GRP scrap to achieve near-virgin-quality glass fibres.