C5 - Recycling/reuse of composites

C - Materials and Manufacturing

Status - published
Last updated on: 21/06/2022

Challenges/Opportunities

Composites, glass fibre in particular are currently not easily recycled. Very large amounts of composites will come out of service posing an environmentally unacceptable situation ??? current practice is to land-fill decommissioned blades.

Solution

With a number of offshore wind turbines approaching their end of service life, investigation of appropriate end of life scenarios becomes a timely priority.

Context And Need

A large number of first-generation wind turbines are entering the second half of their service life. Service life extension and repowering can reduce LCoE, however materials used in decommissioned blades in particular need to be reused/recycled.

Summary

A large number of first-generation wind turbines are entering the second half of their service life. Service life extension and repowering can reduce LCoE, however materials used in decommissioned blades in particular need to be reused/recycled. New research is needed to investigate methods to repurpose and/or recycle composites for offshore wind and marine renewables.

Impact Potential

Expected potential impact is high for OPEX through repowering and life extension. However, it will become unacceptable for the industry not to tackle a growing major unrecyclability issue.

Research Status

Some disparate research work is underway by individual investigators but there is no concerted programme for the recyclability of composites for marine applications.

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Active research projects:

  • Development and demonstrators of durable biobased composites for a marine environment (SeaBioComp): Development of in situ polymerisation during monomer infusion under flexible tooling to manufacture large bio-based natural-fibre reinforced thermoplastic matrix composites for large marine structures.
  • Disposal of End-of-Life composites: This project covers the disposal of marine composites which may arise from marine sports equipment, boats and ships, submarines, marine renewable energy systems or offshore oil exploration and exploitation industries. Consideration is given to the avoidance of waste by appropriate design, manufacturing, marketing and maintenance through life.

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Supergen ORE Hub - Flexible Fund Research

  • Recycling Composite Wind Turbine Blade for High-Performance Composite Manufacturing
    Lead Institution: University of Strathclyde
    The wind energy industry is the fastest growing global consumer of glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP) composites. In parallel with this growth is rising GRP waste from end-of-life wind turbine blades (WTB). Unlike other wind turbine components modern lightweight composite WTB are not designed for recyclability. Consequently, developing commercially viable solutions for WTB recycling and reuse is rapidly becoming one of the most important challenges facing global wind industry. This project aims to develop a cost-effective recycling process with commercial competitiveness for large scale recycling of wind turbine blades through reducing the energy demand in the recycling process, improving the quality of reclaimed fibres, and improving their manufacturability.
  • Development of Thermoplastic Composite Tidal Blades for Enhanced End of Life Recycling and Lower Cost Manufacturing (ThermoTide)
    Lead Institution: University of Edinburgh
    The ThermoTide project will investigate new sustainable tidal blade materials and manufacturing routes that are needed to meet mechanical fatigue and seawater erosion resistance requirements, facilitate low-cost manufacturing, installation and operation and enable maintenance, repair, recycling and reuse of tidal turbine blades. The proposed thermoplastic materials are processed rapidly at room temperature and can enable more effective assembly techniques such as automated thermal welding or novel, room-temperature cold infusion welding. Successful implementation of this novel thermoplastic composite technology in the tidal sector will reduce the manufacturing, maintenance and life cycle cost of blades and initiate a circular economy in this sector, leading to reductions in LCoE via reduced OPEX and CAPEX. This project will develop an understanding of the processing, mechanical performance, surface erosion, welding, effective repair and recycling of the new sustainable materials. Subsequent steps will be to design, manufacture and test a full-scale tidal blade from recyclable thermoplastic composites.

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Links to Industry Priorities:

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We would also like to invite UK researchers and industry stakeholders within ORE to submit links to research projects, both past and present, for inclusion within the landscape.

Therefore, if you have a UK-based research project within an area of ORE that you feel is relevant to a specific research theme or challenge within the Research Landscape, click HERE to submit your research project to the research landscape

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PhD projects in Offshore Renewable Energy

In order to better understand the breadth of ORE research currently being conducted in the UK, the Supergen ORE Hub has collated from its academic network, UK Centres for Doctoral Training and Industrial partners, a list of PhDs currently being undertaken in ORE.

Access a PDF of the list and find out more about including your PhD.

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