Like so many other forms of energy, recycling wind turbine blades has slowed the progress of the renewable energy’s entrance into the marketplace. But scientists from Michigan State University believe they have found a solution—and a tasty one at that.
Wind turbine blades are massive. Not to mention, they are made out of fiberglass—a tough material to break down. The turbine blades—which can span 55 feet in length and weigh nearly 30,000 pounds—often find themselves sitting in a landfill somewhere after their useful life has come to an end.
But the scientists at MSU have come up with a new material that includes glass fibers, and binds it with plant-derived and synthetic polymers. The material is referred to as a composite resin, and it can be recycled much easier than the traditional fiberglass turbines.
"The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it's in so that it can be used over and over again in an infinite loop," one MSU chemical engineer said.
The recycling process involves separating out the parts to remove the glass fiber bits. What is left can be recast into more wind turbines, or any number of items—items which apparently include gummy bears.
The scientists have made multiple items with the recycled resin, including countertops, a bathroom sink, and even gummy bears, after the recycling process recovered food-grade potassium lactate.
It could also be made into a sports drink, similar to Gatorade.
There will likely be some pushback to consuming matter left over from the recycling of wind turbine blades, but it’s clear that possibilities beyond ending up in a landfall do indeed exist.