Please fill out all the fields marked with an asterisk * and then click on "Send form".
The article has been sent
Thank you for your recommendationClose window
Wind turbines, too, eventually reach a point when they are no longer fit for purpose. Earlier versions are gradually being decommissioned and replaced with larger, more efficient models. Some of these older wind turbines are being sold off on the international second-hand market. More and more, however, are having to be recycled as they have been operating for over 20 years and are reaching the end of their useful life.
For years now, REMONDIS has been looking at ways of recycling obsolete wind turbines. One of the pioneers in this sector is REMONDIS Olpe GmbH. Collaborating closely with other REMONDIS companies, it offers reliable solutions that cover all aspects of this business – including the complex task of recycling the blades.
As with boats, the blades of a wind turbine are made of glass-fibre reinforced plastic, i.e. glass-fibre mats coated and held together by resin. A layer of wood may also be added to the smaller models. The length of the blade on the older onshore wind turbines is normally up to 45 metres long and weighs between 9 and 12 tonnes. The blades found in the offshore wind farms are much larger and much heavier – measuring up to 115 metres in length and weighing around 40 tonnes.
Dealing with the size of the blades and the materials used to make them are, therefore, the two main challenges that recycling companies have to face. The first task is to cut up the blades into smaller pieces (approx. 13 metres in length) on site where the wind turbine was located so that they can be transported by truck to the recycling facility.
Recycling wind turbine blades: not only their size poses a challenge
REMONDIS operates three locations in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (including Olpe) that collect and repack the blade sections into larger batches, each weighing around 600 tonnes. These are then sent to REMONDIS’ subsidiary, TSR. A metal recycling specialist, TSR operates high performance shredders which are able to shred the blades in just one single step so they can be conveyed pneumatically.
As yet, little attention has been paid to the recycling of wind turbines – one of the challenges resulting from the energy transition.
This reusable material is bought by cement works as all the components of the shredded blades are perfect for their business. Large amounts of energy are needed to produce cement and the wood and resin contained in the recycled material can be used as fuel. Moreover, the silicate in the glass fibre cancels out any deficits in the source materials, as the stone used by cement works has a low silicon content. If the blade pieces were not added here, then natural silicate would have to be bought in.
Thanks to its high levels of expertise in this field, REMONDIS is also able to completely dismantle wind turbines. The foundations, tower, nacelle and underground cables are professionally removed and all materials generated by this process, for example concrete, steel and electronic components, recycled. This stage also involves a number of different REMONDIS companies collaborating with each other, such as REMEX, the group’s specialist for processing mineral aggregate.
The cooperation work with Rhenus Logistics also creates a number of advantages here. Rhenus, like REMONDIS, belongs to the RETHMANN Group and offers a range of logistics services which also cover offshore operations. Their branches in Bremen, Cuxhaven and Emden, for example, serve wind farms in the German Bight in the North Sea.
Industry experts believe that there will be a rapid increase in the number of wind turbines needing to be recycled in the future. They predict that over 9,000 tonnes of turbine blades will need to be recycled in Germany in 2016 and that this figure will have almost doubled to around 16,000 tonnes by 2021. The growing interest in recycling wind turbines can already be seen today: the volumes that REMONDIS is expecting to recycle this year are far greater than those of the previous years.