The National Composites Centre (NCC) in the UK has launched an initiative to accelerate the development of technology, processes and materials that address the recyclability and future development of composite wind turbine blades.
The SusWind project is being delivered in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and is supported by The Crown Estate and RenewableUK.
SusWind will be delivered in three waves of activities to address the sustainability challenges for blades.
Wave one aims to stimulate the supply chain for blade recycling and how it leverages the broader supply chain for composites recycling demand with other sectors.
Work packages include landscape mapping, exploitation routes for upscaling viable technologies and demonstrating the effective use of recycled materials in value-add products for other applications.
Wave two looks to demonstrate options to reduce the environmental footprint of blade manufacture through the use of more sustainable and lower impact material feedstock, and through minimising or recycling waste streams.
Wave three will develop guidelines to improve design for end-of-life, ensuring waste is minimised and that composite components can be disassembled for cost effective repaired, re-used, remanufactured and recycled more efficiently and cost effectively.
NCC said it is looking for more companies from the energy industry to get involved in the programme to help to shape the direction of this work.
Other companies already involved include SSE Renewables, Vestas, BVA Associates and Shell.
NCC chief executive Richard Oldfield said: “Composites are a key enabler for the success of wind energy and the role that it plays in delivering a low carbon global economy.
“But it is apparent to engineers, economists and environmentalists alike that we need to find a more sustainable way forward.
“We must commit to transforming the current linear blade product lifecycle into an increasing circular process that forms part of a larger future market for low carbon, recycled composites materials.
“Investing now in the future of blade sustainability will help unlock the use of recycled composites for the next generation of sustainable transportation and infrastructure.
“We’re excited to work with key partners and the wind industry through this ambitious programme to deliver a more sustainable future.”
ORE Catapult research and innovation director Stephen Wyatt said: “As we strive to achieve net zero, offshore wind capacity globally is set to grow rapidly to meet our low carbon energy needs.
“It’s therefore vital that we work to minimise the direct impact on our environment and look for new and innovative ways to recycle the existing fleet of wind turbines and their blades.
“We must also work at the same time to future-proof technology for the next generation through the use of composites or more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials.
“We are pleased to be working on SusWind to solve this major industry technology challenge.”