Go-ahead Granted for UK’s First Wind Turbine Blade Recycling Plant

November 18, 2021

Credit: Aker Offshore Wind
Credit: Aker Offshore Wind

A three-year project to develop the UK’s first wind turbine blade recycling plant has been given a go-ahead after securing the UK government funding.

The £2million project involves a consortium led by Aker Offshore Wind and Scottish researchers. Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency, has awarded £1.3 million to the project, with Aker Offshore Wind contributing more than £500,000 to make the project a reality.

The pilot will now get underway to develop a commercially viable solution, overseen by Aker Offshore Wind, trade body Composites UK, and researchers at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Composites Group and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, which is a part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland Group.

Other academic and industry partners include Nottingham University, global waste management firm SUEZ, composite distributor GRP Solutions and composite part manufacturer Cubis.

Reusing glass-fiber

The project is set up to commercialize what has been described as a revolutionary method developed by the University of Strathclyde to separate the glass-fiber and resin components in composites and recover the glass-fiber component which can then be reprocessed, molded, and reused in other industries, such as the motor trade and the construction industry.

"At present, when giant turbine blades reach the end of their working lives, there are only two options for managing the waste: send them to a landfill or to waste-to-energy plants where they are combusted at significant energy cost," the press release issued Thursday reads.

"The environmental benefits from this project cannot be understated as waste from wind turbine blades alone are expected to reach around 2 million tonnes globally by 2050, and UK volumes of composite waste already exceed 100,000 tonnes per year," Aker Offshore wind said.

"Aker Offshore Wind has pledged its support to trade body WindEurope’s call for a Europe-wide landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades by 2025 and considers this project a crucial step towards setting a new standard for the industry," Aker Offshore Wind said.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said:"Offshore wind is playing an important role in our plans to reach net-zero, particularly in Scotland. It’s great news that this funding will support the development of wind turbine blade recycling, helping prevent blades ending up in landfill and furthering our green ambitions."

“In line with the goals agreed at COP26, the UK Government is investing in research and innovation projects right across the UK to help create a greener future.”

Sian Lloyd-Rees, Managing Director of Aker Offshore Wind UK, said:"This project will be an important piece in our drive to accelerate the move to net-zero waste and emissions and demonstrates Aker Offshore Wind’s commitment to sustainability across the lifecycle of a wind project; all while investing in Scotland and the UK to build a more sustainable future for decades to come."

"At COP26 we heard the urgent call for action and this planned innovation will answer that call to secure tangible solutions for circular business models. The Innovate UK grant will make blade recycling a firm reality, building on the expertise of the researchers at Strathclyde University and our decades of experience at Aker Offshore Wind to create a commercially-viable green solution.”

Malcolm Forsyth, Sustainability Manager at Composites UK and overall project leader, said:"This project is a vital step towards establishing a commercial recycling route for composite materials in the UK and beyond, covering both wind turbine blades and several other applications in the construction and transport sectors.

"Composite materials combining glass-fiber and polymer resin systems, have a huge role to play in enabling the UK economy to transition to net zero and we need effective recycling at end of life to ensure that composite materials achieve high levels of circularity in future."

"Composites UK and all the project partners are very excited that this break-through technology scale-up project has now been funded by the UK government and will make the recycling of glass-fiber composites a commercial reality in the UK in the years to come.”

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