Circular Economy for the Wind Sector (CEWS)

16 December 2020 - Published by Stig Marthinsen

With an average lifespan of 20-25 years, many of the world’s wind turbines installed during the 1990s and early 2000s, are now reaching the end of their life expectancy. This raises the question of what happens to them next?  Whilst they are excellent producers of green energy, challenges arise when it comes time for their decommissioning, due to the current lack of planning for disposal, decarbonisation and potential reuse of components. Despite around 80-85% of the weight of a wind turbine being recyclable, turbine blades still represent a significant challenge to the environment, for which the industry is working hard to find a solution.

Periscope partner, ORE Catapult has established the Circular Economy for the Wind Sector (CEWS) project to investigate new solutions for the bulk recycling of wind turbine blades, and the use of techno-economic analysis to assess their suitability for large-scale redeployment. As part of this project, ORE Catapult aims to lead and facilitate the development of industry best practice and the supporting tools for the detailed understanding of ‘true’ end-of-life potential for pilings, to reduce the environmental and ecological impacts. As well as the reuse, recycling or sustainable disposal of decommissioned offshore wind turbines, CEWS aims to lay the foundations of a new circular economy supply chain for the sector, allowing wind turbine components to be disposed of in the best possible way.

The project will focus on four key areas:

  •       Blade Recycling

Due to a blade’s composite construction, recycling is not always possible. Currently, the most common solution is to dispose of them in landfill. This project will attempt to find new solutions for blade recycling and use techno-economic analysis to assess their suitability for large-scale redeployment.

  •       Cost Strategy

A detailed understanding of decommissioning practices and the costs offshore wind developers will face in the next decades will be developed, whilst also highlighting opportunities for cost reduction and development of the supply chain through innovation. Once the cost structure and value is understood, the offshore wind industry can start to focus on driving down key high-value cost areas through innovation and lessons learned from other sectors such as oil and gas, nuclear and other subsea sectors.

  •       Monopile Remaining Useful Life (RUL)

By developing an industry-accepted consistent and reliable approach to assessing the remaining useful life of offshore wind monopiles, this project will represent a step-change in the way turbine asset integrity management and lifecycle decisions are made.

  •       Recycling Route Map

The roadmap will determine what key components on turbines and the wider infrastructure are made of, and where they eventually end their life. The primary outcome of the roadmap will be a clear understanding of the realistic view on recycling and reuse in the industry and a tangible route map that enables not only the de-risking of the route to recycling, but also increasing visibility on key opportunities for the industry.