Consortium looks at recyclable wind turbine blade

In: Turbines
A cross-sector consortium has announced a project to design and manufacture the wind industry’s first 100% recyclable wind turbine blade.

The ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project, driven by French research centre IRT Jules Verne, brings together industrial companies and technical centres to demonstrate on a full scale the technical, economic and environmental relevance of thermoplastic wind turbine blades, with an eco-design approach to facilitate recycling. The project has been launched for a period of 42 months with a budget of €18.5 million ($21.8 million).

The consortium includes companies across the full value chain, from development of materials, to blade manufacturing, to wind turbine operation and decommissioning, and finally recycling of the decommissioned blade material. It consists of:

  • Arkema, which has developed Elium, a thermoplastic resin, well known for its recyclable properties by depolymerisation or dissolution. This resin will be used in the ZEBRA project.  
  • CANOE, which has recently developed a recycling process of fiber-reinforced acrylic composite material by dissolution providing a high added-value recovery of both separate recycled methyl methacrylate monomer and recycled fiber.
  • ENGIE, a wind farm operator with 8.5 GW under management and more than 2.6 GW of installed capacities. Its purpose is to act to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, in particular through the sustainable development of renewable technologies.
  • LM Wind Power, a designer and manufacturer of wind turbine blades, with more than 228,000 blades produced since 1978. The Cherbourg factory associated with the ZEBRA project has produced the largest blade ever manufactured at 107 meters in length.
  • Owens Corning which develops and produces a glass fiber and composite elements. The company invented a patented High Modulus Glass technology that created step change performances in the wind industry the last decade.

    Within the ZEBRA project, LM Wind Power will design the product, and process and manufacture two prototype blades using Arkema’s Elium resin, in order to test and validate the behavior of the composite material and its feasibility for industrial production. In parallel, the ZEBRA project partners will focus on developing and optimising the manufacturing process by using automation, to reduce energy consumption and waste from production. Project partners will then explore methods to recycle the materials used in the prototype blades into new products. Finally, a life cycle analysis will assess the environmental and economic viability of further utilising the thermoplastic material in future wind turbine blades.

    Céline Largeau, ZEBRA project Manager at IRT Jules Verne, stated: “Demonstrating a circular approach to wind turbine blades throughout their lifetime requires mobilizing a strategic consortium covering the whole value chain to guarantee valuable and precise industrial data and achievements. The ZEBRA project is a great opportunity to join together Arkema, CANOE, ENGIE, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning and Suez who are key leaders in the wind energy sector. We look forward to carrying out constructive work altogether to improve wind energy performance and efficiency.”

    Torben K. Jacobsen, Senior Director Advanced Technology Systems at LM Wind Power, stated: “As a key player in the transition to affordable, renewable energy sources across the world, the wind power industry works actively to develop new materials with higher performance, longer lifespan and recyclable properties. Using Elium® resin, combined with design, manufacturing and recycling process optimization, constitutes an opportunity to reduce cost, production time and environmental impact of wind turbine blades. We are thrilled to be a launching partner for a truly recyclable blade for future wind turbines, leading the way to a sustainable world that works for generations to come.”

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