Veolia and GE Renewable Energy are signing a deal to recycle turbine blades

A multi-year deal with Veolia North America (VNA) has been signed by GE Renewable Energy to reuse blades extracted from its American onshore wind turbines during redesign as well as repowering activities. GE intends to recycle the bulk of blades removed through repowering activities under this arrangement. Using a cement kiln co-processing technology, Veolia can refine the blades to be used as raw resources for cement. VNA has a long tradition of providing the cement industry with repurposed engineered products. Similar recycling technologies have proved to be successful on a commercial scale in Europe.

Blades stripped from turbines would be scrapped at VNA’s production plant in Missouri as part of the arrangement and later used as a supplement for sand, coal, and clay at cement manufacturing plants around the US. On average, approximately 90% of the blade content can be recycled as a repurposed manufactured material to manufacture cement by weight. Over 65% of a blade weight substitutes raw materials that otherwise would have been applied to the cement kiln to manufacture the cement. Around 28% of the blade weight supplies the chemical reaction, which occurs in the kiln with energy.

“Viable disposal of composite materials like wind turbine blades has become a concern not just for the wind turbine industry, but also for aerospace, marine, automotive as well as construction sectors,” said Anne McEntee, Chief executive of GE Renewable Energy’s Digital Services sector. “The unique offering of VNA offers the ability to scale up and deploy rapidly in North America, with minimal disturbance to customers and some benefit to our environment. In this attempt to build a circular economy for composites, we hope to work with them.”

When different turbine modification components are modified to increase the performance and lifetime of the turbine, without removing the whole unit, wind turbine blades can be replaced by turbine modification or what is known as ‘repowering’ efforts. Longer, lighter blades enable the turbine to produce more electricity annually, supplying its end users with still more green energy.

“Through incorporating wind turbine blades, which are mainly made of fiberglass, to substitute raw materials for cement production, we are reducing the amount of coal, sand as well as minerals needed to manufacture cement, eventually giving in greener cement which one can use for a range of products,” Bob Cappadona, COO for the VNA’s Environmental Solutions as well as Services division, stated. “We performed a test that used a GE blade last summer, and we were delighted with the outcome. We have handled over 100 blades thus far this fall, and our clients were pleased with the commodity. Another example of Veolia’s contribution to a circular economy as well as the green transition in which development and economic development go hand in hand is the repurposing of wind turbine blades.