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SSI Shredding tackles decommissioned wind turbines

There are more than 70 000 wind turbines in the US alone. SSI Shredding Systems says its Dual-ShearM120 shredder is the answer to dealing with them at the end-of-life stage.

Wind turbine blades are made from a combination of fibre glass, carbon fibre, balsa wood, foam and resin and typically last about 10 years. Once they break down, they are difficult to repair or reuse. Instead, energy companies leave worn wind turbine blades on the ground next to the towers or send them to landfill. 

Someone elses problem

‘We’re in the infancy of wind turbine blade recycling,’ says Lee Sage, industrial sales specialist at SSI Shredding Systems. ‘The problem is the US dived into wind energy, never considering the end of life of those components and where they would go. It was always going to be someone else’s problem.’

Enter Sean Baisden, the owner of Pitbull Blade Demolition, who was tasked to destroy the thousands of wind turbine blades that are decommissioned each year. To keep his costs down, Baisden needed a machine that was capable of shredding the blades while remaining small enough to move between wind farms.

He reached out to SSI Shredding Systems who says its Dual-Shear M120 shredder has the torque and technology to break down and recycle the toughest wind turbine blades. The shredder has previously handled bulky items ranging from big tyres to chunky aluminium and electronic scrap.

Mobile retrofit

‘There are a lot of different aspects that go into working or developing a new application, like a wind turbine blade,’ Sage says. ‘This has been three years in the works.’

He notes that designing a mobile shredder can be challenging since it must be within the weight and height constraints set by the Department of Transportation. Nevertheless, moving the shredder to various turbine disposal sites is invaluable to Baisden and his business.

The mobile shredder has been in SSI’s portfolio for decades so it was no problem for its team of engineers to design the M120 with a mobile retrofit.

The shredder itself is mounted on a 16-metre flatbed trailer and hauled with a diesel-powered vehicle. The shredder rotates at a low speed, uses high-torque hydraulics, and runs on a classic Caterpillar motor. Pre-cut turbine blades are fed into a hopper on top, which pulverises them into smaller pieces. The waste is then moved up a conveyer belt built with a skid-mount design that empties the shreds into a truck or dumpster. 

The blades are each shredded into 10cm pieces. ‘An average blade takes about two to three hours to shred,’ Baisden says. ‘We then supply these shreds to Regen Fiber, a new company in Iowa that recycles them for reuse as raw materials in various industries. This way, none of the material whatsoever goes to the landfill.’

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