BRIO project: New sustainable system for recycling wind turbine blades

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Motor einer Windkraftanlage (Foto: ©Erich Westendarp /http://www.pixelio.de)

Brussels — The BRIO project, led by Iberdrola, and as partners Tecnalia and Gaiker-IK4, has come up with a new system to recycle wind turbine blades from wind farms. BRIO, which belongs to the European LIFE+ programme, is an initiative that aims to create a new sustainable system to manage and recycle wind turbine blades that are no longer in use, either because they have to be replaced as a result of a breakdown or because the wind farms have come to the end of their useful service life. 

The recycling of these major structures has been geared towards recovering the materials used to produce them, so that they can subsequently be taken advantage of as secondary raw materials in other products.

During the demonstration of the final phase of the BRIO project conducted on a pilot scale, the attendees had the chance to witness a mechanical recycling process involving the automatic separation of materials from the blades using optical means and their subsequent crushing to obtain recovered fractions of long fibres and blends of short fibres and polymer materials with the possibility of being used in other sectors.

For concrete components and in construction panels

The long fibre recovered will be re-used to reinforce prefabricated concrete components, while the remaining blade material with insulating properties will be used in cores in multi-layer panels for construction purposes.

BRIO has emerged out of the need to address the problems of waste products coming from the blades of wind turbines installed on wind farms. These are generated when the blades are no longer of any use, either for operational or maintenance considerations or because the wind farms have come to the end of their useful service life and have to be dismantled or upgraded.

Right now, the management of waste materials of this type is posing an emerging environmental problem because, given the recent nature of the development of the wind turbine business, a significant volume of material has not yet been generated.

To anticipate viable solutions

However, there are already countries such as Germany where a ban has been imposed on the disposal of untreated solid urban waste. As a result, materials such as wind turbine blades need to find appropriate formulas so that they can be recycled.

In this respect, the BRIO project aims to anticipate viable solutions designed to optimize the procedures to dismantle the farms, by properly providing for the management of waste of this type. At the same time, the aim is to draw up legislative recommendations and guides to good practices within the framework of the European Union to regulate these aspects.

The benefit will be in terms of a cut in the management costs linked to dismantling as well as a reduction in the environmental impact of the service life cycle of wind farms.

Source: Cordis / Elhuyar Fundazioa