Going green generates tons of garbage

Wind turbine blades, pictured from a few years ago, are cut to be buried at a landfill. COURTESY PHOTO

By 2050, Used Wind Turbine Blades Will Exceed 43 Million Tons Of Waste Every Year Published in Energy/News

LYMAN — The road to green energy is not as good for the earth as projectionists predict according to a new study, specifically forecasting wind turbine blades are projected to generate tons of garbage,

On the local level, Uinta County has been digging trenches and burying the blades for a long time as the blades are almost impossible to recycle. Uinta County even bought a new heavy-duty, heavy compressor to use at the landfill, and all it did was ride up and over the wind turbine blade.

The information on burying the blades was reported several years ago by Uinta County. This trend not only affects Uinta, but other counties across the state have reported they are also burying the blades. Natrona County reported it was cutting the blades into 20-foot lengths and then burying the cut blades.

In 2019, the Casper Landfill accepted about 1,500 wind turbine blades for disposal. The photos of bulldozers pushing dirt over the chopped up blades were shared widely on social media.

Mike Bratvold, special waste supervisor with the City of Casper, told Cowboy State Daily, according to Killough, the landfill isn’t currently taking any blades.

In a story Thursday morning Killough, reported, “The speed by which wind farms are being constructed across the U.S. is going faster than a spring wind in Casper. In about 20 years, the wind turbines put into operation today will be nearing the end of their lifespan. The ones built 20 years ago are nearing it now.

“Since the blades are very difficult to recycle, the waste stream created by the retired blades is a mounting problem.”

Killough further cited a 2017 study published in the scientific journal ‘Waste Management,’ the world’s wind industry will be producing 43 million tons of blade waste annually by 2050, which is the equivalent weight of 215,000 locomotives. The U.S. and Europe will account for 41% of that.

The blades average five tons at 120 feet, but sizes vary. Some of the largest can be as long as a football field and weigh 20 tons. Tons of garbage with no current scalable, cost-effective technologies to recycle the blades, and most of them are going to landfills.

Manufactures are looking at ways to make the blades more recyclable or reusable. But at the present, there is a growing problem.

Killough reported Jonathan Naugton, University of Wyoming professor of mechanical engineering and Director of the Wind Energy Research Center, told Cowboy State Daily the composites contain various fibers and a resin that bonds all those fibers together into a solid matrix.

The blades can also be recycled into an aluminum can or some plastics. There is even some work on trying to use ground up blades as paving material. This is being looked at in Texas by Texas-based Xproducts U.S. LLC, according to Don Sylvester, CFO. There are 680,000 miles of roads in Texas, Slyvester said, and the state, as part of a program to encourage recycling, will pay 15% more for recycled paving material than what it pays for new stuff. The company is also looking at way it can be used as concrete barrios on highways instead of making new cement.

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