GE unveils the biggest recyclable wind turbine blade in the world
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This could help to reduce the environmental cost of renewable energy and green hydrogen made with it.
General Electric (NYSE stock symbol GE) recently unveiled the largest recyclable wind turbine blade in the world, adding additional potential to reduce the environmental impact of energy production.
This new unveiling offers improvements to sustainable energy as it can extend materials used in its production.
A consortium led by GE, already among the leaders in the production of massive wind turbines for offshore renewable energy production, has unveiled the new recyclable blade. It is the largest thermoplastic blade in the world as was created to provide an example of the possibilities of using fully recyclable blades for renewable energy generation with a lower environmental impact.
Renewable energy has become a critical component to decarbonization. It provides the opportunity to generate electricity without producing greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it can also power electrolysis for producing green hydrogen fuel. However, the equipment used to produce it has a lifespan and the materials that cannot be recycled or reused are generating an environmental concern of their own.
The thermoset composites comprising most conventional wind turbine blades cannot be recycled.
A study published by the University of Cambridge indicated that there will be about 43 million tons of blade waste worldwide by 2050 – a common decarbonization target date. The Zero Waste Blade Research (ZEBRA) Project is working to develop more sustainable thermoplastic composite materials in order to help overcome that substantial challenge.
The prototype blade is 203 feet (62 meters) long and is made with Elium resin produced be the Arkema materials company. Elium resin is a type of thermoplastic reinforced with glass fiber. As a result, the entire blade is 100 percent recyclable, and according to the consortium, its performance is comparable to that of other thermoset resins conventionally used for their light weight and durability.
Installation of a GE wind turbine – It’s truly fascinating:
By using a chemical recycling method, all the material comprising the wind turbine blade can be depolymerized and turned into fresh resin that can be reused. GE’s first prototype is meant to function as a proof-of-concept for circular economy loop for this renewable energy production. It is promising for both cleaner electricity and potentially greener hydrogen production in the future.