Broken Wind Turbine Blades Create Mountainous Waste Problem

By: John O’Sullivan

Ultra-green Denmark admits it has no idea what to with a worrisome mountain of old and broken wind turbine blades. The composite material can’t be recycled.

In a story from Denmark’s leading business newspaper Dagbladet Børsen (June 10, 2011) experts warn, “As the wind becomes a central part of energy supply, a huge waste problem is growing with similar speed.”

Windy Scandinavia has hit this unanticipated hurdle because a key material in constructing wind turbines, carbon fiber composite, cannot be recycled and is fast filling landfills or else is being burned creating toxic emissions. The report admits, “a gigantic mountain of scrap blades is building up.”

Tom Løgstrup Andersen from Risø DTU, a senior development engineer who has spent two decades researching fiberglass composites admits, “When a turbine is operating, it produces green energy. But when it is worn, it is suddenly a problem. There exists no concrete solution to reusing blades from wind turbines.”

Poor Planning, Poor Technology Defeats Renewables Goal

Denmark has 6,000 wind turbines serving a population of 5.3 million and when the wind conditions are just right wind produces around 19 percent of its electricity. Yet despite huge financial investment no conventional power plant has yet been shut down while Danish electricity costs to consumers are the highest in Europe, according to research by energy researcher, Dr. Vic Mason.

Turbine blades routinely exceed 60 meters in length and nearly all are manufactured from thermoset plastics that cannot be recycled once their useful life has expired. The special plastic is the only material currently known that meets reliability standards due to their relatively high strength and low weight properties.

Dr. Mason cites evidence that many small turbines have collapsed in close proximity to human dwellings [1; 2; 3], and recently two big Danish wind turbines lost blades and scattered sharp pieces of glass fiber up to 500 meters from the tower base in high winds [4.]. Similar events have also been reported in Sweden, northern England and Scotland [5.]. Blade failure can be lethal and catastrophic as shown by  video footage.

Indeed, the death toll from wind turbines in recent decades is huge when compared with nuclear accidents. In 2008 in the U.S. alone there were 41 worker fatalities and 16 non-worker deaths.

As the film shows, ironically, in high winds the turbines must be stopped because they are easily damaged. Carbon fiber has been the material of choice because of lightness and efficiency of construction. But the stress damage to fiber composites is poorly understood to begin with and wear and tear on blades can be considerable.

Also, over time a build-up of dead bugs, plus other wear and tear reduces the power generated by 20 to 30 percent. So for safety and efficiency the blades must be regularly replaced.

Europe Fears Toxic Waste Wind Turbine Mountain

Currently the global market for wind turbine blade is growing at over 10 percent growth per annum and worth around US$2 billion a year. But shortsighted thinking has led to a situation where the greatest challenge now is to develop a profitable and safe recycling process for the unwanted carbon fiber blades.

Since 2004, most European Union (EU) member states passed laws forbidding landfill disposal of carbon fiber composites. Further, incineration of plastics is discouraged because of the potential release of toxic byproducts.

Professor Henning Albers from the Institut für Umwelt und Biotechnik, Hochschule Bremen, calculates that at current growth rates by 2034, there will be a mountain of 225,000 tonnes of unwanted rotor blade material waste. That’s a lot of landfill!

Investors Bail out of Renewables Sector

The aircraft industry, a long-time user of composite plastics has, itself, had little success in solving the landfill problem. The aviation industry has tried to minimize landfill tipping by grinding down the thermoset composites into granules for use as filler materials (e.g., in asphalt). But there isn’t a commercial market for such waste.

A report by Compositesworld.com agrees, “a major cost barrier in composites recycling is that collected composite waste must be sorted — one of the more labor-intensive aspects of conventional recycling processes.”

Summing up the lack of forward planning about wind turbines physicists and environmental activist, John Droz, jr, warns, “just because a power source is an alternative, or a renewable, does NOT automatically mean that it is better than any conventional or fossil fuel source.”

References:

[1.] B.B., 2000: “Vindmølle lækkede olie. Kollapset vindmølle ved Rærup erstattes snart af ny”. “[Wind turbine leaked oil. Collapsed turbine near Rærup will soon be replaced by a new one]”. Nørresundby Avis, 09-02-2000.

[2.] Bülow, T., 2001: “Exit Tjærborg”. Eltra magasinet, August 2001.

[3.] Ritzau, 2005: “Vindmølle mistede sine vinger”. “[Wind turbine lost its blades]”. Jyllands-Posten, 21-01-2005.

[4.] LiveLeak, 2008: “Windmill out of control” (Video of wind turbine exploding).

[5.] Krøyer, K., 2008: “Endnu en Vestas-mølle kastede vinge 100 meter væk i blæsten”. “[Yet another Vestas wind turbine throws its blade 100 metres in the wind]”. Ingeniøren, 25-02-2008

Source: John O’Sullivan

 

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18 Comments

Filed under Climate Alarmism, Climate Change, Climate Disruption, Co2 Insanity, Global Warming, Government, John O'Sullivan, Renewable Energy, Wind Power

18 responses to “Broken Wind Turbine Blades Create Mountainous Waste Problem

  1. Damn good posting here…

    I made sure that a whole raft of ‘greentards‘ got this story in the in-box…

    Good stuff!!

  2. Anonymous

    So let’s see here. These things kill birds and bats in large numbers, provide intermittent power that needs to be backed-up by petrol or gas fired generators, are high maintenance and now they are a waste hazard and can’t be recycled.

    Now that’s some technology!

    Maybe we shouldn’t let government(s) pick who the winners and losers shall be.

    • The free market should decide what goes and what blows. If it’s good it will sell, it if sucks it won’t. I guess that’s too simple of a concept for the government clown circus to comprehend.

  3. Subsidies are an invite to corruption. Big subsidies cause Big corruption.
    Forget about shortsightedness: the eyes of politicians are on the money.

    BTW, has anybody seen the video to the right of the screen “Chinese Traffic cameras etc.”? It’s been retired from YouTube because of offensive content.

  4. Suzanne Albright

    “…and when the wind conditions are just right, produce 19% of its electricity”… And the net amount produced annually is what? Wow! Anyone who can read already knew these monstosity blades are not recyclable and would eventually pile up, creating massive toxic junkyards. At some point, the earth will be a massive mess of wind farms and wind graveyards. What land or offshore region will be left for other use? Sounds like a REAL GREEN future for all of us!!

  5. Big Bert

    The subsidy for windturbines is paid by us through consumer electricty bills, and also through the inflated bills of British industry making us less competitive.

    We are foced to pay this subsidy. We are being forced to destroy some of the most beautiful British landscape and ruin important areas habitat.

    We have 7 million Brits in fuel poverty and an estimated 2.700 expected to die of cold this winter.

    Most of the subsidy goes abroad to foreign companies. If you think this is wrong Google Reduce electricty bills and support petition 22704. Thank you!

  6. Pete

    Where is the evidence that a broken blade in itself is toxic? Burning it is just a stupidity that even a schoolboy would realise is a non-starter.

  7. Windbag

    The technology is as useful as our politicians. Need I say more?

  8. This article is quite biased. Firstly, the quote “when the wind conditions are just right wind produces around 19 percent of its electricity” is false. The 19% is the average annual energy production from wind turbines. (E. g. Yesterday, 28. dec 2011, Wind powered electricity in Denmark was 101,5%.)

    Secondly, there IS technology to reuse turbine blades. (http://mobil.ing.dk/artikel/90972) Today the technology is a bit expensive, so it is not in use, but when the EU soon forbid dumping of used blades the method will be used.

    Thirdly, you need to compare the waste from turbine blades with the amount of carbondioxide prodcued in conventional power plants. Of course other emissions such as Mercury and other heavily toxic substances from conventional power plants are also considerable. Tiny Denmark produces millions of tonnes of Carbondioxide every year, so just imagine what USA produce.

    Some complain about the price of green energy, but if you take the climate changes into consideration and put those costs on top of the ordinary electric bills, conventional energy is much more expensive than we think.

    Do turbines kill birds and bats? Well they don’t in Europe! So when someone says they kill American wild life I really believe it is nothing more than propaganda.

    It is true that Wind energy so far isn’t a “stand alone” solution as the wind varies, but here in Denmark we are developing fuel cells that can produce Hydrogen and/or Methane from electricity. These gasses can be used in the existing pipelines/gas fuelled power plants.

    Green energy will be one of the biggest industries in the future and we believe we will make a lot of money from it, as we today are leading in wind technology. Our neighbour, Germany, is making a lot of money on solar cells so the future looks good for Europe. (Despite the Euro-crisis.)

    The USA could participate in this adventure, or you can just sit back and see even more jobs dissappear from America.

    Where has your famous entrepeneurship gone?

  9. Michael,
    You wrote:
    “Today the technology is a bit expensive, but…”
    - Beware of people who take your money now on account of something that may work tomorrow.
    Risk capital is one thing, but taxing poor people for it is immoral.

    “If you take climate change into consideration…”
    - Assuming there is a climate change, and that it is caused by CO2 as some people have been led to believe (the majority in the UK and the US don’t): where can you show that windfarms have cut down on CO2 emissions? Ever heard of intermittency and the need for backup? See:

    http://www.epaw.org/media.php?lang=en&article=pr3

    “Do turbines kill birds and bats? Well, they don’t in Europe!”
    - Oh really? Take a look: http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1875

    “…but here in Denmark we are developing fuel cells that can produce Hydrogen and/or Methane from electricity.”
    - Yet you have no results to show for it, after 10 years!

    “Green energy will be one of the biggest industries in the future and we believe we will make a lot of money from it, as we today are leading in wind technology. Our neighbour, Germany, is making a lot of money on solar cells so the future looks good for Europe. (Despite the Euro-crisis.)”
    - Ever heard of bubbles? After 30 years, the wind industry still need as much support from taxpayers and captive consumers as it did at the beginning. Is that sustainable? The answer is no. Soon the bubble will burst. In fact, it already has for solar cells in Germany and Spain. So now they’re trying a new pie in the sky: mammoth solar plants in politically-sooo-stable North Africa, with huge transportation costs.

    “The USA could participate in this adventure, or you can just sit back and see even more jobs dissappear from America.”
    - Haven’t you heard? America is Nº 1 in the world in wind energy. Electoral campaigns are financed by the Enron boys, as in Europe. This explains why a useless energy is being subsidized by Washington to the tune of 8 billion dollars a year.

    “Where has your famous entrepeneurship gone?”
    - Green energy is not for entrepreneurs: it is for rent-seeking, lobbying multinational companies looking for a guaranteed income at no risk. Taxpayers and captive consumers will inflate their profits.

  10. Martin

    Michael
    I think that your summary is a reasonable round up of the state of play in Europe. Enron has not existed for many years and it only operated as a supplier of wind turbines for a short time purchasing other American wind turbine manufactures, the businesses were picked up by General Electric as going concerns when Enron collapsed. The colapse of Enron was due to doggy trading practices in the futures markets, not due to its wind turbine business.

    Martin

    • Dodgy accounting pratices too…
      But the “Enron boys”, the “smartest boys in the room”, are still around. They are now working for GE, Vestas, the AWEA, etc. Same business philosophy: make a quick mega-buck with “creative methods”. In the present case with the help of subventions, campaign contributions, and the culture of pork-barrel politics.

  11. Anonymous

    Erik Grove-Neilson now runs Denmarks leading recycler of wind turbine blades. http://www.refiber.com
    All is well, old wind turbine blades are being recycled.
    Remember that some people like to spread disinformation for their dubious agendas.
    By the way, 100 times more birds die from crashing into house windows than are killed by wind turbines

  12. genomega1

    Reblogged this on Not Good News.

  13. this is for someone’s interest