Sustainable Energy

GE, Orsted and now Iberdrola: The competition to recycle wind turbine blades heats up

Key Points
  • The issue of what to do with wind turbine blades when they're no longer needed is a headache for the industry.
  • Iberdrola is one of several companies to look into the potential of recycling and reusing wind turbine blades.
  • Iberdrola says new company, known as EnergyLOOP, will develop a blade recycling facility in Navarre, northern Spain.

In this article

Wind turbine blades photographed at a site in Denmark. The issue of what to do with blades when they're no longer needed is a headache for the industry.
Jonathanfilskov-photography | Istock | Getty Images

Spanish energy firm Iberdrola has jointly established a company that will recycle components used in renewable energy installations, including wind turbine blades.

In a statement last week Iberdrola said the company, known as EnergyLOOP, would develop a blade recycling facility in Navarre, northern Spain.

"The initial objective will be the recovery of wind turbine blade components — mostly glass and carbon fibres and resins — and their reuse in sectors such as energy, aerospace, automotive, textiles, chemicals and construction," the company said.

EnergyLOOP has been launched by Iberdrola via PERSEO — its "international programme for startups" — and FCC Ámbito. The latter is a subsidiary of FCC Servicios Medio Ambiente.

Iberdrola said EnergyLOOP would also have support from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, a major player in the manufacture of wind turbines.

The issue of what to do with wind turbine blades when they're no longer needed is a headache for the industry. This is because the composite materials blades are made from can prove to be difficult to recycle, which means that many end up in landfills when their service life ends.

As the amount of wind turbines being used increases, the topic looks set to become even more pressing. Iberdrola said it was estimated that roughly 5,700 wind turbines would be dismantled in Europe each year in 2030.

Iberdrola is one of several companies to look into the potential of recycling and reusing wind turbine blades, an aim that feeds into the idea of creating a circular economy.

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The concept has gained traction in recent years, with many businesses now looking to operate in ways that minimize waste and encourage re-use.

In Sept. 2021, for example, Siemens Gamesa said it had launched a recyclable wind turbine blade, with the firm claiming its RecyclableBlades were "the world's first recyclable wind turbine blades ready for commercial use offshore."

A few months earlier, in June 2021, Denmark's Orsted said it would "reuse, recycle, or recover" all turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of wind farms once they're decommissioned.

That June also saw General Electric's renewables unit and cement manufacturer Holcim strike a deal to explore the recycling of wind turbine blades.

In Jan. 2020 another wind energy giant, Vestas, said it was aiming to produce "zero-waste" turbines by the year 2040.