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Vattenfall Bans Landfills for Wind Turbine Blades, Plans Recycling

banning landfilling worn-out wind turbine plans
Vattenfall committed to 100 percent recycling and reuse of wind turbine blases (Vattenfall)

Published Oct 14, 2021 7:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

European energy company Vattenfall is committing itself to the recycling of wind turbine blades as part of an initiative to decrease the long-term environmental impact as the growth of wind energy accelerates across Europe. One of the emerging issues for the wind industry is the disposal of blades which have a life cycle of maybe 20-years but are made up of complex composite materials.

Vattenfall currently has around 50 onshore and offshore wind farms in operation across five countries, producing about a third of the company’s energy supply. In addition, they are building Denmark and Scandinavia’s largest offshore wind farm as well as Sweden’s largest onshore wind farm. The company expects that wind energy will continue to be a growing part of its operations and more broadly across Europe and the globe.

As part of an effort focusing on reducing environmental impacts and handling all resources responsibly, Vattenfall announced an immediate commitment to a landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades. Further, the company is committing to the re-use, recovery, or recycling of 50 percent of wind turbine blades by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.

“It is no longer acceptable for composite waste from the wind industry to be placed in landfills,even though specific country legislation allows for this,” said Eva Philipp, Head of Environment and Sustainability Business Area Wind. “Achieving 50 percent recycling by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030 is a big challenge. Solutions to tackle this challenge do not exist in a large scale today, so significant efforts are needed to reach this long-term goal. We will engage in and provide blades to research initiatives that will foster further technology innovation and testing of more advanced recycling technologies.”

Vattenfall along with others is supporting research on material recycling of composite waste and promotes the use of recycled composite material in new products. Furthermore, there will be a long-term approach focusing on all aspects of circular economy, such as supporting the recyclability of wind blades by design and thereby increasing the value of the recycled material at end of life. 

“To reach 100 percent recycling is a joint effort and all stakeholders need to collaborate. In this Vattenfall wants to significantly contribute. As the wind industry continues to grow to provide fossil-free energy across the globe, Vattenfall is committed to promoting a circular economy which reduces environmental impacts throughout the product lifecycle,” said Helene Biström, Head of Business Area Wind.

To be able to achieve complete recycling of wind turbine blades depends on factors like technical development, support of policies, and governmental incentives. To push the business towards a sustainable end-of-life solution for wind turbine blades, Vattenfall?will continue to increase its engagements in?cross-industry discussions on the national and as well as EU level.

Vattenfall’s announcement follows a similar one by Orsted, which in June also announced that it would no longer send worn-out or damaged blades to landfills. The company is also working on techniques to recycle, reuse or recover the composite materials from the blades. They committed to storing any blades until the technology is developed to reuse the components.