Turbine blades capable of being broken down into their component chemistries are targeted for a world’s first deployment in Britain’s coastal waters.
Mega-utility RWE has sign an agreement with turbine makers Siemens Gamesa to include the manufacturer’s recyclable blades on 44 turbines of the 100 intended for its Sofia offshore farm in the North Sea.
The 1.4 GW project, set to cover thousands of acres of Dogger Bank off Teeside began construction last year, at a projected cost of £ 3billion. A total of 132 recyclable blades will be fitted before construction ends in 2026. This is the maximum available in the light of current market capacity for the key resin used in the new design.
Conventional blade production using composite materials has long provoked outcry from critics of wind power, consigning end-of-life structures to landfill, at heavy environmental and financial cost.
Towers and the nascelles which house their gearing hubs already have established recycling practices. But the composites making up blades have been more challenging, due to the specific resin type previously required to bind their elements.
Siemens Gamesa’s new resin formulation has a chemical structure that favours efficient separation. The manufacturing process protects the materials’ properties, permitting them to be reused in new casting applications, including in car making or in consumer goods like suitcases.
Siemens Gamesa claims world leadership in recyclable blade manufacture after trialling the technology in German projects, including its Kaskasi park off the island of Heligoland.
The turbine maker says production of half Sofia’s blade requirement will be produced at its factory in Hull, consolidating its commissioning from a growing supply chain in Britain.
RWE installed Britain’s first offshore turbines off Blyth, Northumberland in 2000.
Clark MacFarlane, UK managing director, Siemens Gamesa: “When we began working with RWE on installing our recyclable blades on their Kaskasi project, we knew that we had taken the first major steps on delivering a major change to the renewable wind sector.
“Having the opportunity to produce even more for Sofia is fantastic and fully demonstrates our and RWE’s focus on developing and delivering even greater levels of sustainability for renewable generation globally.”