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GE Strikes Deal to Recycle Turbine Blades

Dec. 8, 2020
A multi-year agreement will see Veolia North America shred and recycle obsolete blades as raw material for cement manufacturing, as GE updates its U.S. land-based wind-energy operations.

GE Renewable Energy struck a multi-year agreement with Veolia North America to recycle wind-turbine blades removed from GE’s onshore turbines during upgrades and repowering efforts. GE intends to recycle a majority of the blades replaced on its U.S. wind turbines during repowering efforts.

Veolia develops water, waste, and energy management processes, which are offered as services for communities and industries.

The terms of the deal between GE and Veolia were not announced.

According to the U.S. Wind Turbine Database more than 58,000 turbines at 1,500 wind-power sites are installed in the U.S. Wind turbine blades are typically fabricated in fiberglass, resin, or plastic and may be replaced due to turbine upgrades or ‘repowering’ programs, when specific elements the machine are rehabbed to improve efficiency and service life without replacing the structure. Longer and lighter blades help turbines to generate more energy.

Blades removed from turbines will be shredded at a VNA processing plant about 70 miles northwest of St. Louis, and then used as a replacement for coal, sand and clay at cement manufacturing operation across the U.S. On average, nearly 90% of the blade material by weigh, will be reused.

Recycling decommissioned wind turbine blades will help cement manufacturers’ efforts to decarbonize their processes. Veolia will use a cement kiln co-processing technology, with over 65% of a blade’s weight replacing raw materials that otherwise would be added to the kiln to create the cement; and about 28% of the blade weight provides energy for the chemical reaction that takes place in the kiln.

According to Bob Cappadona, COO for VNA’s Environmental Solutions and Services division, said “Last summer we completed a trial using a GE blade, and we were very happy with the results. This fall we have processed more than 100 blades so far, and our customers have been very pleased with the product.”

“Sustainable disposal of composites such as wind turbine blades has been a challenge, not only for the wind turbine industry, but also for aerospace, maritime, automotive and construction industries,” commented Anne McEntee, CEO of GE Renewable Energy Digital Services. “VNA’s unique offering provides the opportunity to scale up and deploy quickly in North America, with minimum disruption to customers and significant benefit to the environment.”

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