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Circular Economy

Circular Economy Requirements for the Construction and Operation of Wind Turbines

Carolin von Hagen - UFZ, Dr. M. Reese

Wind energy faces a recycling problem: The rotor blades, which are made of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) or carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), can hardly or only be recycled with great difficulty. Although the other components of a wind turbine (for example the concrete foundation or the tubular steel tower) can already be recycled easily today, it is estimated that by 2025 around 25,000 tons of rotor blade waste will be generated annually. And the trend is rising.
In times in which the climate crisis is progressing significantly and the associated effects are becoming more and more present, the federal government in Germany is placing a strong emphasis on the expansion of renewable energies, especially wind energy. But in order for the wind energy to become a 100% sustainable alternative to conventional energy production, it is imperative to examine whether and what scope there is for improving the recycling rate of rotor blades in the future.
This question will be investigated as part of this dissertation project. In particular, a distinction must be made between existing systems that have already been built and new systems. The background for this distinction is the fact that the options for action for existing systems are necessarily limited, since, for example, it is no longer possible to influence the used material. In contrast, there is a generally wide scope for action for new systems. The focus of this research work will therefore be on the question of how it can be ensured that in the future the recyclability of rotor blades is sufficiently taken into account during their production.