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Legal insights & industry updates

| 1 minute read

How renewable is renewable? Repurposing wind turbines for the future

Renewable energy is the current hot topic in the world due to the ongoing climate crisis, with wind power being a major component. It provides one of the cheapest and cleanest sources of energy amounting to almost 900GW of installed capacity globally. However, a prominent juxtaposition arises from the continued use of wind turbines. Although most components of a wind turbine can be recycled, the blades, which are composed of fibreglass, are proving to be a difficult object to dispose of when they reach the end of their 20-25-year life span. This therefore questions the credentials of wind turbines being a source of energy that is truly ‘green’.

As a result of the disposal difficulties encompassed by the blades, this has resulted in vast amounts of ‘blade graveyards’. Estimations provide that 720,000 tons of blade material will be disposed of over the next 20 years in the US, with copious amounts of lawsuits likely to arise over the illegal dumping of blades. This posits the question; what can be done to alleviate the disposal problems arising from those blades? 

Companies around the world have started to discover ingenious and quirky ways in which the blades can be repurposed into society and provide a viable solution for the circular economy of wind turbines. The re-wind project in Denmark, for example, has started to repurpose the blades into bicycle sheds, which will allow for an increased capacity for safely storing bicycles and providing further encouragement for individuals to invest in bicycles and reduce the overall carbon footprint. 

Meanwhile, one company in the US has repurposed wind turbines as a structural element in its entirety. Canvus, hailing from Ohio, cuts the blades into chunks and re-invents them as sturdy, outdoor furniture. Many pieces of the furniture have been decorated by local artists which provides a functional and decorative use for societal purposes. Brian Donahue, managing partner at Canvus, described the pieces as “functional art”, saying: ”You’re sitting in a piece of art, having a cup of coffee with a loved one or a friend, enjoying the view... The artists are phenomenal to work with and it gives them a canvas that they’ve never painted on before,”

These examples highlight that, whilst there is an inherent challenge with the disposal of wind turbine blades, there are solutions which tackle the problems such as refurbishing the blades into outdoor furniture, and this significantly contributes towards the circular economy and aids in mitigating the landfill disposals of the blades.



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