GE Renewable Energy-owned LM Wind Power is targeting manufacturing zero-waste wind turbine blades in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of its products.

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The company’s zero-waste concept means the manufacturer aims to send no excess manufacturing materials or packaging to landfill and incineration without energy recovery by the end of the decade.

In blade production, 25% of materials used go currently to waste, and the manufacturing waste of turbines in the next decade is higher than the volumes from the decommissioning after the end of the operational life of wind farms, the company explained to Recharge.

“Our technology has played a crucial role in making wind power one of the most competitive sources of electricity,” LM Wind Power chief executive Olivier Fontan said.

“Now the focus has evolved from making wind power not only competitive, but also making the industry sustainable. It is not one or the other but both.”

The company said it was determined to work with its partners to reduce the carbon footprint of wind turbines, he added.

LM Wind Power CEO Oliver Fontan Photo: LM Wind Power

LM Wind Power’s zero-waste announcement comes as other blade makers are also increasingly aiming for a reduction of waste in manufacturing and the recyclability of wind turbines.

Vestas last month said it will offer fully recyclable blades by 2030, and earlier this year had said it aims to be producing zero-waste wind turbines by 2040.

Siemens Gamesa has already launched the world’s first recyclable wind turbine blade – for offshore – and has the ambition to make all of its turbines fully recyclable by 2040.

Industry body WindEurope in June had called for a continent-wide ban on sending old turbine blades to landfill by the end of 2025. At present only Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland have such a ban in place.

For wind turbine and blade manufacturers alike, the key to reducing the product carbon footprint lies in the supply chain. LM Wind Power stressed, adding that in the blade life cycle, around 75% of CO2 emissions occur in the supply chain.

“This is a call to action for suppliers to the wind industry: join us in designing out waste from our value chain,” said Hanif Mashal, LM Wind Power vice president for engineering and technology.

“Engagement with our supply chain on waste prevention will increase over the coming years; in partnerships we will also explore how we can ultimately deliver waste back to suppliers, for recycling into new materials that will be supplied to the wind industry or other sectors.”

LM Wind is also working with partners to establish sustainable, large-scale solutions to recycle decommissioned blades in a wider wind industry project dubbed ‘DecomBlades’ that also includes Orsted, Vestas and Siemens Gamesa.

And the company is also developing blades that can more easily be recycled through the ‘ZEBRA' (Zero Waste Blade Research) project.