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The wind sector offers a huge opportunity for the UK to become a global leader in blade recycling if a cross-industry approach is taken, according to a report by the Net Zero Technology Centre and ORE Catapult.
The report, funded by the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub, highlights that approximately 14,000 turbine blades are expected to reach the end of their usable life within the next three years.
It also estimates that by 2023, up to 50,000 tonnes of composite material could be recovered and recycled for a variety of re-use applications.
There has been significant investment within the renewable energy sector to improve installation, operations and maintenance, but the focus is now shifting to sustainable end-of-life management as the first offshore wind farms approach decommissioning in the next 10 years, the report said.
It warned that over the next three decades the industry faces significant growth in the scale of turbines expected to be decommissioned.
The sector therefor seeking solutions for lifetime extension and more sustainable end-of-life management, such as repowering and circular economy practices.
This report is the second part of a series focusing on re-use and recycling opportunities in the wind sector, with the first report identifying that an extra 20,000 jobs could be created with a circular economy for wind turbines.
Net Zero Technology Centre project manager Pamela Lomoro (pictured) said: “This report shows that significant progress has been made in the research, development and deployment of renewable technology.
“The report illustrates what can be achieved in this industry if we can develop a collaborative approach that involves all sectors striving for sustainable decommissioning.
“With input from manufacturers through to end users, we can reinvent how wind turbines are recycled.”
ORE Catapult project lead Lorna Bennet said: “WindEurope estimates that 10% of all composite material waste will come from the wind sector over the coming years.
“It is a massive opportunity and with the right funding, policy direction and appetite, we could see the UK become a global leader in circular economy solutions.”