Looking at old blades in new ways

Efforts are being made to discover innovative ways to repurpose used wind turbine blades, and some of that innovation is happening in Kansas.



August 25, 2021 - 8:58 AM

I remember the first time I saw a wind turbine.

I had just come driving out of a canyon in Utah and into an open valley. There stood three massive, languidly rotating harbingers of the future. Those were the early days of wind energy, and I found the mechanical structures not only fascinating but also artistic in their clean, white, elegant forms. Today, on our own western plains, turbines have become a ubiquitous part of the landscape, and in spite of controversies such as bird mortality and sound pollution, I’m proud of Kansas for being a leader in clean energy.

However, with those plentiful turbines comes the problem of what to do with hundreds of thousands of blades when they come out of commission. Made of fiber-reinforced polymer, the blades are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. Currently, the bulk of them either end up in landfills in states with enough space to take them, or they are incinerated. Both options have adverse environmental impacts. 

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