For the first time, General Electric recently announced that it developed a wind turbine that is 100% recyclable. This means that it can be rebuilt as it ages. The blade of the recyclable wind turbine measures 62m (203-foot). It was made using a thermoplastic resin called Arkema’s Elium resin. This material is famous for its great recyclable properties.

The Zero wastE Blade ReseArch (ZEBRA) project, which is launched in September 2020, is a great partnership led by French research center IRT Jules Verne with other industrial companies including Arkema, CANOE, Engie, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning, and SUEZ. The purpose of this partnership was to give a demonstration of the technical, economic, and environmental relevance of thermoplastic wind turbine blades in energy production.

 

 

LM Wind Power got the assignment to build and design the world’s largest thermoplastic blade. The company developed the blade at its Ponferrada plant in Spain. This great milestone was achieved after a year of material development and testing backed by sub-component level process trials by the consortium partners.

The material, Liquid Thermoplastic Resin, is an ideal one for the manufacturing of large parts by a process called resin infusion, combined with Owens Corning-high performance fabrics. The final composite material will have similar performances when compared to thermoset resins. Additionally, this composite material comes with a key unique benefit. Yes, recyclability.

Composite components that are made from Elium can be easily recycled using chemical recycling, an advanced method that will fully depolymerize the resin and separate the fiber from it. Not only that, but this method can also recover a new virgin resin and High Modulus Glass that can be reused.

 

This chemical recycling method for composite components is developed by Arkema and CANOE partners. The method is tested on all composite parts including waste generated from production. Along with Arkema and CANOE, Owens Corning is also in charge of finding different solutions for fiberglass recycling through remelting or reusing.

To reduce energy consumption and waste from production, these companies have also gained betterment in developing and optimizing the manufacturing process by using automation.

 

“Work on the ZEBRA project is progressing according to schedule, which has all the necessary expertise for the deployment of sustainable thermoplastic wind turbine blades. The manufacture of this first blade is a great success for the entire consortium and for the wind industry in general,” Céline Largeau, Project Manager, IRT Jules Verne.

The company, LM Wind Power is ready to start its full-scale structural lifetime testing at its Test and Validation Center in Denmark, This decision is to confirm the performance of the composite material used in the blade and its feasibility for future sustainable blade production.

 

According to General Electric, the next steps will be done to recycle the production waste, the dismantling, and recycling of this first blade, and the analysis of the test results.

“With this project, we are addressing two crucial industry challenges. On one hand, we are progressing on our Zero Waste Blades vision by preventing and recycling manufacturing waste. On the other, we are taking blade recyclability to a new level: the end-of-life thermoplastic composite blade material has high value in itself and can be readily utilized in other industries as material compounds but can also be depolymerized and the resin reused in the production of new blades,” states John Korsgaard, Senior Director, Engineering Excellence, LM Wind Power.

 

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