Making Wind Turbine Blades Circular – the ECOBULK way.

Finnish Teknikka & Talous calls attention to the growing problem of wind turbine blades, and Conenor, ECOBULK partner, may have the solution.

Markku Vilkki, CEO of Conenor, has been working with ECOBULK on new circular approaches for composite materials. Composite materials, such as used in wind turbine blades, are considered difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. Most of these end up in landfills or being incinerated. Considering the annual production of composite materials is expected to reach $108 billion  by 2023 (BusinessWire), the expected destruction of value is enormous.

ISWA President Antonis Mavropoulos already called attention to the problem of wind turbine blades on his blog back in 2017. He stated that around 43 million tons of blade waste is expected to be generated worldwide by 2050, out of which China will have to manage 40 percent, Europe 25, the United States 16 and the rest of the world 19 percent.

Luckily, solutions are already being found. In his labs at Conenor, Vilkki is already producing extrusion profiles containing 35% FRP waste from wind turbines in a thermoplastic matrix. They have good physical properties, and best of all, they are fully circular. These will be demonstrated in the ECOBULK project which is now entering its demonstration phase. They will be used for lightweight and outdoor constructions, some of which will be placed at the new Kymiring motorsport park that is being built in Finland, and will host the Finnish MotoGP event in July 2020.

Vilkki will be presenting a paper at the Wind Turbine Blade Manufacture event in Dusseldorf between the 9th and 11th of December 2019: “Volume opportunities for re-manufacturing GFRP-waste; test results & applications”. This is a follow up from the previous year’s presentation – “Closing the loop for wind turbine blades” which can be downloaded here.

ECOBULK is a 4-year project, funded by the EU H2020 program. It combines 32 partners in a consortium of experts from product design, materials, production, logistics, business models, recycling and waste management. Together they have developed new circular design frameworks, materials and products that will be demonstrated across Europe in 2020. These products will be supported with new circular business models, reverse and circular logistics as well as a stakeholder platform that will be able supply advice on end of life options for composite products or materials.

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