The US Department of Energy (DoE) has launched a US$ 5.1 million (EUR 4.5 million) contest to advance the domestic recycling of wind turbines.
The Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize has two phases and is intended to help the US develop a cost-effective recycling industry for fibre-reinforced composites and rare earth elements. It is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.
The DoE says 85%–90% of the mass of a wind turbine is made of materials that can already be commercially recycled. The bulk of the unrecycled materials are fibre-reinforced composites found in wind turbine blades, nacelle covers and the cover for the hub that connects the blades to the wind turbine. The wind energy industry also depends on neodymium and dysprosium used in generators, which do not currently have domestic commercial-scale recycling options.
‘We need sustainable and secure domestic wind energy supply chain to achieve our climate goals,’ says Alejandro Moreno, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. ‘By creating new cost-effective recycling streams for key wind turbine materials, this prize will help ensure wind energy can continue to rapidly expand across the United States.’
The initiative also seeks to help the US:
- adopt commercially mature recycling technologies from other industries
- develop recycling technologies and processes that have not yet been applied commercially in the US
- reduce the dependence on foreign materials.
- commercialise technologies that have the potential to create jobs and grow the domestic wind energy industry.
- attract new talent and expertise to the wind energy industry
During the first phase, ‘Initiate!’, competitors will develop a concept for wind material recycling focused on economic and environmental sustainability. Up to 20 winners will each receive US$ 75 000 in cash and an invitation to compete in the second phase.
In the second phase, ‘Accelerate!’, competitors will develop submissions based around prototypes of their technologies. Up to six teams will be selected to each receive a cash prize of US$ 500 000 and vouchers to work with DoE laboratories valued at US$ 100 000.
The competition is open to private (for-profit and non-profit) organisations, non-federal government (such as state, county, tribal, and municipal) entities, academic institutions and individuals. Entrants have until 3 August to register.