Metals recycler EMR has hit back at critics of wind turbines who say the growing need for decommissioning and recycling is a major headache for the sector.
It follows a report that 80 end-of-life turbine blades from a 28-year-old wind farm in Scotland are going into storage ‘while the industry battles to solve major problems over their recycling’, it was stated.
Scotland Against Spin, a campaign group opposed to wind farms, says that while 85% of wind turbines can be recycled, the blades cannot be recovered. Aileen Jackson, a spokeswoman for the group, is quoted as saying: ‘The environmental impact of non-recyclable blades should have been dealt with long before it arrived at the stage where decommissioning is now taking place.’
EMR, in response, says most wind turbines ‘pay back’ the carbon impact of their production within their first year of operation and go on to provide decades of clean energy. It adds that EMR and others are already recycling wind turbines reaching the end of their operational lives.
Up to the challenge
EMR recently launched Re-RE Wind, a project to create a sustainable, circular economy for the rare earth magnets that offshore wind turbines contain. At its workshop on the coast of Argyll & Bute, Scottish SME Renewable Parts refurbishes components from end-of-life wind turbines and supplies them back to the industry in place of those made from virgin metals.
The company concedes that recycling turbine blades is not simple but says it is a challenge that engineers, entrepreneurs and recyclers are tackling. Scottish-based company Re-Blade is using the blades, which are made from balsa wood and fibreglass, to build furniture and bike shelters.
Globally, it adds, wind turbine owners, blade manufacturers and recyclers are looking to develop industrial scale recycling solutions for blades. ‘This technology is still in its infancy and larger scale recycling options will undoubtedly soon emerge,’ a press release says.
‘Far from being a sign of a “major problem”, as reported in the media, the news that a relatively small number of end-of-life turbine blades have been put into storage seems like a sensible step to take while the industry waits for new, high quality, recycling processes to be developed.’