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Un-recyclable wind turbine blades sent to landfills

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 06, 2020

Wind turbine blades in laydown yard Pasco, 2009

Two steps forward one step back? Not thinking about second-order consequences? The type of thing the face-palm emoji was invented for? Call it what you will but, as more and more of energy generation switches to renewables, some of the equipment, in this case wind turbines, is already aging and old parts piling on. The problem here is what happens to the blades doesn’t seem to have been thought through.

Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now.

So where do they go? Landfills.

Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach 30 feet under.

Image: Not a landfill from the linked article but rather wind turbine blades in a laydown yard in Pasco, Washington in 2009.