Published 22 January 2021

The production of next-generation large wind turbines will be vital if the UK is to accelerate the build-out of floating wind – unlocking deeper, higher wind speed sites – and achieve net-zero by 2050. But how can we ensure that these turbines of the future, and their components, such as blades, are as sustainable as they can be?

Globally, around 14,000 wind turbine blades are reaching the end of their usable life within the next two to three years – that’s almost 50,000 tonnes of blades that are destined for landfill or incineration.

The Solution

In partnership with the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult’s National Composites Centre (NCC), and supported by The Crown Estate, Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) and RenewableUK, we’ve launched the SusWIND project to drive the future sustainability of wind turbine technology.

SusWIND will discover and demonstrate viable ways to recycle composite wind turbine blades, explore the use of sustainable materials and processes in developing composites for blades, and innovate in design to future-proof the turbine blades of tomorrow. This will create a future where composites are a viable, sustainable and low carbon material for use across multiple industries including renewable energy, transportation and infrastructure.

The SusWIND project will be ​​ delivered in three waves of activities to address the sustainability challenges for wind turbine blades:

  • Wave 1 will stimulate the supply chain for blade recycling and how it leverages the broader supply chain for composites recycling demand with other sectors.
    Work packages including landscape mapping, exploitation routes for upscaling viable technologies and demonstrating the effective use of recycled materials in value-add products for other applications. ​
  • Wave 2 will demonstrate options to reduce the environmental footprint of blade manufacture through the use of more sustainable and lower impact material feedstock, and through minimising or recycling waste streams.
  • Wave 3 will develop robust guidelines to improve design for end-of-life, ensuring waste is minimised and that composite components can be disassembled for cost effective repaired, re-used, remanufactured and recycled more efficiently and cost effectively.

As well as the obvious benefits of sustainability and recyclability, there are significant opportunities to reduce the costs associated with next-generation turbines by using new composite-based components, as well as increase the level of UK content in the turbine’s manufacture, which is at its lowest in the area of major turbine components.

This represents a huge opportunity for UK companies to supply and manufacture these major components, such as blades, and for the UK to gain a competitive advantage in future turbine circular economy,

To achieve the turbines of the future requires a significant shift in terms of technology and manufacturing, requiring new designs and adapting and automating manufacturing processes. That’s why it’s critical that government, industry and academia continue to work together now to make these turbines of the future today’s reality.

Learn more about the SusWIND project here >

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