When rotor blades provide peace and quiet
In the BladeReUse project, KIT researchers are working with partners from industry and business to investigate how rotor blades from wind turbines can be reused more sustainably and efficiently in the future14 Dec 2023
Wind energy has been one of the mainstays of renewable energy sources in Germany from the very beginning. But even the most stable pillar does not last forever. After around 20 to 30 years, most wind turbines reach the end of their service life. As a rule, they are then dismantled and, in the best case, replaced by new, more efficient turbines. But what to do with the old turbine components? Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), together with partners, want to develop measures in the BladeReUse project that will enable better recycling of the disused rotor blades in particular.
"While there are established recycling processes for steel, reinforced concrete and copper, the recycling of rotor blades made of fiber composite materials has so far been an unsolved problem," explains Thomas Ummenhofer, Head of the Steel and Lightweight Construction Department at the KIT Research Institute for Steel, Wood and Stone. Although there is a method for recycling larger quantities of this waste, this process not only emits a lot of carbon dioxide, but also leads to suboptimal final recycling through incineration.
In the BladeReUse project, the researchers are now focusing on how the rotor blade segments could be reused for products suitable for large-scale production. "Fiber composites are robust and durable. They could therefore be ideal for the construction of noise barriers, for shoring excavation pits or for coastal and water protection," says project manager Matthias Albiez. The aim of BladeReUse is to develop the entire process from dismantling and disassembling the rotor blades to testing, constructive adaptation and qualification for further use through to testing the new products under real conditions. The researchers are also analyzing the life cycle assessment of the processes and investigating how carbon dioxide can be saved.
KIT's project partners include the companies Amiblu Germany GmbH, Die Autobahn GmbH des Bundes, ICM-Composites GmbH & Co. KG, Leviathan GmbH, Rau Lärmschutzwände - Geosystem GBK GmbH and RWE Renewables GmbH.
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