Vestas aims to be producing ‘zero-waste wind turbines’ by 2040 in a move it said will affect all aspects of its machines’ lifecycles – including the challenge of blade recycling.
The company claimed to be the first turbine OEM to make the commitment, which it said will be achieved under a strategy to be rolled out over the next two years.
The Danish group – which recently set itself a goal to be a zero-carbon business by 2030 – said it will be “developing and implementing a new waste-management strategy, introducing a circular economy approach in the different phases of the value chain: design, production, service and end-of-life”.
The OEM – the world’s largest supplier of onshore wind turbines – said its machines are an average 85%-recyclable now, with an immediate challenge coming from the non-recyclable composite materials used by the industry for blades.
Vestas is targeting an increase in blade recyclability from the current 44%, to 50% by 2025, and to 55% by 2030.
The OEM said: “Several initiatives designed to address the handling of existing blades after decommissioning will be set in motion. These will cover new recycling technologies that are optimal for composite waste, such as glass fiber recycling and plastic parts recovery.
“Vestas will also be implementing a new process around blade decommissioning, providing support to customers on how to decrease the amount of waste material being sent to landfill.”
Blade recycling has emerged as a red-light issue for the entire wind sector, as the global fleet grows along with increasing repowering of older projects – including their blades.
The number of blades being taken to landfill has generated negative headlines for the industry in the US, with a recent example coming late last year when officials in South Dakota tightened rules in the face of an influx of components.
Last year a cross-sector effort was announced to find novel approaches to the recycling of wind turbine blades in a joint initiative by lobbying group WindEurope, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Composites Industry Association (EUCIA).
Vestas interim Chief Operations Officer, Tommy Rahbek Nielsensaid of the new pledge: “As the world’s largest supplier of wind energy, Vestas has a responsibility to eliminate waste across its value chain.”