MTC to take part in European project to recycle wind turbine parts

Experts at the Manufacturing Technology Centre are to take part in a €10 million EU project to develop technologies to recycle high value parts from wind turbine blades.

The four-year EoLO-HUBS project aims to recover glass and carbon fibres from large wind turbine structures that have reached the end of their useful life.

The Coventry-based MTC is one of 18 partners from across Europe. The project is coordinated by the Aitiip Technology Centre in Zaragoza, Spain. The consortium also includes research divisions from several leading industrial companies.

Europe is among the global leaders in wind energy technology accounting for more than 70% of all wind power installed in the world. This meets nearly 14% of the EU’s power demand, being the second largest form of power generation capacity in the EU.

However, Dr Sundar Marimuthu, technical specialist from the MTC, said the huge growth that wind energy has experienced in Europe since the 1990s is starting to pose some environmental problems associated with the challenges of the end-of-life management of wind farms.

"Wind turbines are made of a combination of different materials such as wood, metals, adhesives, coatings, and fibre-reinforced polymer,” he stated. “The recycling of polymeric end-of-life composite is very challenging. Recycling fibre-reinforced polymer normally comes with the undesirable side-effect of 'downgrading', ending as a raw material only suitable for low quality applications. As a result, most of this end-of-life composite currently goes to landfill or incineration.”

Dr Helen Elkington, who is leading the MTC laser team in the project, added: “Renewable energy sources, such as wind, play a critical role in the future of the planet. To deliver these sustainably it is essential that the full circular economy of the materials used is considered."

EoLO-HUBs’ solution will provide an answer to the three main areas involved in the end-of-life for wind farm recycling:

  • Decommissioning and pre-treatment of wind turbine blades, including handling, non-destructive inspection tools, cutting, shredding, and sorting.
  • Sustainable fibre reclamation processes address two alternative technologies: Low carbon pyrolysis and green chemistry solvolysis.
  • Upgrading processes for the recovered fibres addressing glass fibres as well as carbon fibres.

A knowledge hub will be set up with a digital platform providing a circular economy framework to enable the replication of the project approach for wind turbine blade recycling, as well as accurate identification of raw materials. 

The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.

Established to prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile environment in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions, the MTC houses some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in the world, creating a high quality environment for the development and demonstration of new technologies on an industrial scale. This provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers to develop new and innovative processes and technologies.

EoLO-HUBs is coordinated by Aitiip, and involves 18 European partners from seven countries:

  • ECHT Regie in Transitie (Netherlands)
  • Nordex Energy (Germany)
  • Moses Productos (Spain)
  • Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials (Germany)
  • Teruel Airport (Spain)
  • Advantis APS (Denmark)
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung (Fraunhofer Society, Germany)
  • Jansen Recycling Group (Netherlands)
  • Mondragon Goi Eskola Politeknikoa Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta S Coop (MGEP, Spain)
  • Saint-Gobain Placo Iberica (Spain)
  • Global Equity & Corporate Consulting (Spain)
  • TNO Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and its joint innovation center Brightlands Materials Center (Netherlands)
  • Centro Ricerche Fiat SCPA (Italy)
  • Polymeris (France)
  • National Composites Centre (UK)
  • University of Leeds (UK)
  • The Manufacturing Technology Centre (UK)

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