In the search for new ways to generate renewable energy, wind turbines are leading the way. However, wind turbine blades, which move with the wind, wear out over the years. Ultimately, they reach the end of their useful life and must be replaced.
Concerns what to do with old wind turbine blades
There are certain countries that have windy areas and where wind energy is harnessed to the fullest. One such country is Denmark, where more than half of the energy it generates comes from wind turbines. There, it is common to see the beautiful landscape tinged with these powerful “windmills” that generate energy.
However, clean and renewable energy, also has its disadvantages. Like what do you do when the powerful blades reach the end of their useful life? The life cycle of these blades is about 20 to 25 years, then they need to be replaced.
Wind turbines are huge and when they reach the end of their life cycle, they end up in sheds or in the open air. As Denmark foresees that by 2030 70% of its energy will come from wind turbines, the issue is of great concern.
Worldwide, it is estimated that by 2050 wind energy waste will reach 40 million tons. The concern is not only in Denmark, all over the world they are devising ways to put the discarded blades to other uses.
Denmark finds use for turbine blades
One of the most curious ideas is to turn these gigantic blades into bicycle parking. The blades are made of very resistant materials. The composites include fiberglass, synthetic resins and foam, none of them biodegradable or recyclable.
The Danish organization The Re-Wind Network started using the discarded blades. They use them to make roofed structures for parking bicycles. In addition, the same organization has staff dedicated to developing other uses.
The ideas they have in the pipeline are several. Pedestrian bridges, noise barriers for highways, skate parks, among others. In the case of bicycle parking, these are protected from wind, rain and sun. Architecturally they are impeccable and only need to make precise cuts in the blades.
However, the Georgia Institute of Technology is considering using the blades in construction and engineering. Other companies are looking into developing wind turbines with reusable materials. Leading company Siemens Gamesa is already testing blades with these materials. They are made from resins that are easy to break down chemically when discarded.