Wind turbines will create 43 million tonnes of waste by 2050; here’s how some companies are tackling that challenge
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One of the biggest costs of wind energy actually comes after it’s lifecycle.
Wind turbines are often too big and sturdy to be crushed, recycled or repurposed because they are built to withstand hurricane-force gusts.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the US will remove 8,000 wind turbines in the next four years.
This is because it is decomissioning older turbines, most of which were built a decade ago. In those days installations were less than a fifth of what they are now.
And shipping them to landfill is a logistical challenge because they have to be broken up, shipped and buried in pits at least 30 feet deep.
The University of Cambridge estimates wind turbine blades will generate 43 million tonnes of waste by 2050.
While the majority of wind turbine components can be recycled, particularly steel and copper wires, the fibreglass blades can’t.
However, businesses involved in this space are beginning to realise the problem and are taking steps.
Denmark-headquartered Vestas announced it would spend the next two years working on a broad strategy to deal with its turbines at the end of their lives.
This has not stopped it from setting broad targets. It wants to increase the recyclability level of its blades from 44 per cent today to 55 per cent by 2030.
Additionally, start ups are emerging to attempt to fix this problem. One firm, Texas-based Global Fiberglass Solutions, breaks down the blades into pellets and fibre boards which can be used as floors and walls.
There are three ASX small caps either in or trying to get into the wind farm game. Stockhead contacted all of them for comment but only one, Genex Power (ASX:GNX), responded.
A spokesperson for Genex said because its Kidston project was still in the planning stage it was not familiar with the recycling process.
However she suggested it may be the case that the manufacturers provide lifetime warranties meaning they take responsibility once it surpassed its use-by date.