October 3, 2023

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Electric’s renewable energy unit and LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement maker, have reached an agreement to investigate the recycling of wind turbine blades.

A letter of intent stipulates that companies will focus on research into “circular economy solutions”. Business practices related to the concept of circular economy have grown in importance in recent years, and many companies around the world strive to operate in a way that minimizes waste.

In a statement on Thursday, the companies added that they were looking for “new ways to recycle wind blades, including as building material for building new wind farms.”

The plans announced this week build on an already existing relationship between the two companies. Last June, GE Renewable Energy announced that it would partner with LafargeHolcim and another company, COBOD International, to develop wind turbines that use 3D-printed concrete bases.

The industry is worried about what to do with wind turbine rotor blades when they are no longer needed. This is because the composites used in their manufacture are difficult to recycle and many shovels end up in landfills at the end of their life.

As governments around the world try to expand their renewable energy capacity, the number of wind turbines on the planet will only increase. This in turn will increase the pressure on the industry to find sustainable solutions for the disposal of rotor blades.

In recent years, major wind energy players have announced that they will tackle the problem. Just last week, Danish company Orsted said it would “reuse, recycle or reclaim” all turbine blades in its global portfolio of wind farms after the shutdown.

In April it was announced that science-industry collaboration will focus on recycling fiberglass products, a move that could ultimately help reduce wind turbine blade waste.

Last December, GE Renewable Energy and Veolia North America signed a “multi-year agreement” to recycle blades removed from onshore wind turbines in the United States. In January 2020, the wind energy giant Vestas announced that it wanted to produce zero-waste turbines by 2040.