Development of at-scale recycling of offshore wind turbine blades in the UK could create as many as 20,000 jobs across the supply chain, according to a new report.
The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is now calling for increased investment and a radical shift in research and development into wind turbine blade recycling.
A report produced under the Energy Transition Alliance (ETA), a partnership between ORE Catapult and OGTC, with input from experts at the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the University of Leeds, said that wind turbines are in theory, up to 90% recyclable.
However, as their blades are made from composites of resins and fibres they have proven challenging to break down, process and recycle.
The report identifies 14 technologies that show promise for recovering blade materials but said further work was needed before they can deployed at scale, particularly around issues of environmental impacts, energy use and cost efficiency of techniques such as heat treatment of composites.
It said there is a “golden opportunity” for UK companies to take a lead and pointed out that the global offshore wind industry will need to decommission some 325,000 blades by mid-century.
Chris Hill, Director of Operational Performance at ORE Catapult, said: “We are on the cusp of a break-through composites recycling solution. The technologies exist, but to be viable, they require intensified investment and some new approaches to studying and addressing the remaining innovation challenges.
“Engagement with the UK supply chain is the first step for us: recycling is only of benefit when the recovered materials have saleable end-products that prevent deployment of virgin materials.”