How to dispose of old turbines? Turn them into sweets

The question of what to do with redundant wind farm parts has long been an issue. Now scientists are saying we may be able to eat them.

New research has led to an unlikely proposed solution as to what can and should be done with old turbines blades once they can no longer safely and efficiently form part of wind power infrastructure. 

yellow green and red plastic beads

Scientists at the University of Michigan believe a new composite resin that has been proven suitable to use for building the huge blades required to generate electricity could be recycled for multiple purposes. These include replacement turbine blades, countertops, car lights, nappies and sanitary products, or even gummy bears – the popular sugary treat. 

The resin combines glass fibers with plant-based and synthetic polymers, resulting in a strong, durable material which, if dissolved in fresh monomer, can have glass elements removed making it suitable to be recast for different purposes.  

‘The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it’s in so that it can be used over and over again in an infinite loop,’ says John Dorgan, Ph.D., who is presenting the work at the autumn meeting of the American Chemical Society. ‘That’s the goal of the circular economy.

‘Larger wind turbine blades are more efficient, so companies keep making bigger and bigger ones,’ he continues. ‘Often, wind farms will actually replace the turbine blades before the end of service life because the farms can generate more electricity with bigger blades.

Earlier this summer, a team at CU Boulder announced they were working on new turbine designs based on natural palm trees, which could offer more resilience to hurricanes. 

Image credit: Amit Lahav




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