Recycling wind turbine blades

A group of researchers from Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and the Lithuanian Energy Institute investigated a new method for wind turbine blades’ recycling. Using pyrolysis, they broke the composite materials into their constituent parts, i.e. – phenol and fibre.
Wind turbine blades made of refractory glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) laminate composites can last up to 25 years. Then they end up in landfills. The idea is that if the reflex energy sector wants to be truly sustainable, a solution to this problem is needed.
It is estimated that wind turbine blades account for 10 per cent of Europe’s fibre-reinforced composite material waste. Researchers claim that by 2050, wind turbine blade waste will increase to around two million tonnes globally.
The researchers subjected several batches of thermosetting glass fiber and thermoplastic glass fiber composites to pyrolysis (both in the presence of zeolite catalysts and without) and subsequently determined the amount of phenol released. Based on the results, the scientists concluded that the extracted materials – phenol and fibers – can be reused. In addition, the process is virtually waste-free.
The research group is currently working on a model to scale and calculate the broader economic and environmental impact of the results.

Reference: Samy Yousef, Ieva Kiminaitė, Justas Eimontas, Nerijus Striūgas, Mohammed Ali Abdelnaby, Catalytic pyrolysis kinetic behaviour of glass fibre-reinforced epoxy resin composites over ZSM-5 zeolite catalyst, Fuel, 2022,