Through its massive wind turbines and innovative offshore designs, GE continues to sharpen its toolkit for building the future of sustainable energy, and a newly unveiled turbine blade shows how it can be extended to used materials . A consortium led by the company has created the world’s largest thermoplastic blade, designed to serve as a full-scale example of fully reusable wind turbine blades.
Wind power has become an important pillar in our fossil fuel-free future, but that doesn’t mean it comes without environmental concerns. The thermoset composites that make up today’s turbine blades cannot be recycled, and a study from the University of Cambridge suggests that there will be 43 million tons of blade waste worldwide by 2050. The Zero Waste Blade Research (ZEBRA) project is working on more sustainable materials. as thermoplastic composites.
The 62-metre (203-ft) prototype blade is made from materials company Arkema with allium resin, which is a glass-fiber reinforced thermoplastic. Not only is the material 100 percent recyclable, it is said to provide the same level of performance to thermoset resins that are well suited for their lightweight and durability.
Via a chemical recycling method, the material can be depolymerized and turned into a new virgin resin for reuse, serving as a proof-of-concept for a circular economy loop for the wind power sector. Before that happens, LM Wind Power will begin full-scale structural testing to verify the blade’s performance in the coming weeks. It will then verify these advanced recycling methods later in the year, as well as work on ways to recycle production waste.
“With this project we are addressing two important industry challenges,” said John Korsgaard, Senior Director, Engineering Excellence, LM Wind Power. On the other hand, we are taking blade recycling to a new level: end-of-life thermoplastic composite blade materials have high value in their own right and can be readily used as material compounds in other industries , but it can also be depolymerized and the resin can be reused. Production of new blades.”