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I saw a news article saying that Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills. This is definitely unfavourable, but I really want to get a better sense of the scale of the problem. After all, Earth is really big! With the amount of already installed wind power, what area of land is going to be disrupted (per year) to make space for landfills to dispose of all those turbine blades? Would it be larger or smaller than a city?

And hypothetically speaking, how much land area would be needed for blade disposal if wind power was able to provide all of our primary energy requirements? Based on estimates of annual primary energy use at 157,500 TWh and annual energy from wind power at 930 TWh/year.

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    I think effort should be put into the root cause of ( potential) failure. Apparently the problem is they were not strong enough to have a very long fatigue life ; Engineering was inadequate. But once they are removed from service , land-fill is about the only recourse. – blacksmith37 Mar 13 at 0:27
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This wont answer your question, but will attempt to show, why the question is based on wrong assumptions.


That headline you're concerned about is missing a "yet". True, currently recycling possibilities are few and have low capacity, but research is conducted and start-ups are being founded. I think those blades wont be lingering forever in landfills.

The Bundesverband WindEnergie (German Wind Energy Association) is an association of companies which produce, erect and operate wind turbines. It released a paper on recycling options for wind turbines (the paper is in German, sorry). Points 3.9.1 and 3.9.2 deal with your question/assumption.

Older rotor blades (those reinforced with fibre-glass) are shredded and for example used during concrete production. Thus 1,000 tons of shredded rotor blades substitute 450 tons coal, 200 tons chalk and 200 tons sand in a mixture of replacement fuel and silicate substitute (pp. 8-9).

Newer blades (those with carbon fibres) are more problematic to use for "thermic recycling" due to the electric properties of said fibres. They need to be shredded and then heated under exclusion of oxygen but after separation can be used for car parts or in engineering, even for 3D-printing (p. 10).

Companies are aware of the recycling issue and are working on it - so, while currently there are some issues to tackle, they are managable. Also, please remember that the waste produced by wind turbines is several magnitudes smaller than our everyday waste.

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  • This is helpful, thanks! – Nic Mar 13 at 13:31

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