TRC in collaboration with the Composites Unit of the Technological Center of Catalonia, EURECAT, has developed the first composites manufactured from recycled fiber.
This represents an important first step towards reusing turbine blades to create lightweight materials with robust mechanical properties that can be employed in a wide range of sectors, such as automotive manufacturing, railways, maritime transport, industry, leisure and sports. These raw materials can be used to manufacture panels, seats and consoles for use in rolling stock, street furniture, bicycles and boats, among many other uses.
The production of these new reinforced materials represents a considerable environmental success story, both in terms of cutting CO2 emissions and reducing the volume of waste. Further research in the future may revolutionise the composite material market.
The study of the physico-chemical properties of the recycled fibers carried out in Research Centre CENIM-CSIC shows the optimal conditions of the R3FIBER process allow the obtention of fibers with barely modified elastic modulus that maintains around 90% of the tensile stregth. The optimization of the control cycles during recycling is key, since the same studies show that the variation of the process conditions produces significant reductions in mechanical properties.
Regarding fracture toughness a slight reduction can be observed, but this factor do not affect to the composite material properties.
Once raw materials are ready (composites from wind blades) the treatment by R3FIBER technology is performed, in which glass and carbon fiber reinforced composite is subjected to different heating curves in controlled atmosphere and temperature, and after that a cleaning phase.
Conditions of the process allow the decomposition of the resin and the obtention of high quality recycled fiber (0% resins), fuel and synthesis gas suitable for cogeneration
Reception of the wind blade takes place on TRC installations, where pilot plant is located. In these installations operations of cutting, segregation and selection of the wind blade components are performed, separating segments of glass fiber, carbon fiber nucleus, copper from lightning rod system, etc
After producing thousands of clean and sustainabler energy kilovats, and saving the emmission of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, one of the wind blades from number 19 wind mill in Bont Vent Vilalba (property of EDPR) came to the end of its life cycle.
Unlike the rest of the elements that composes the wind mill, wind blades, once come to the end of their life cycle, do not have a efficient managment system, and their valorization is a challenge that has been not solved until now. The nature of their composition and the employed materials to their manufacturing (glass or carbon fibers, thermohardened resins, sandwich structures, coatings, etc.) make these reinforced materials very hard to recycle. Despite the attempts made in some companies and technological centres, nowadays wind blades are the only element from wind sector that cannot be recycled. The absence of a viable technology causes that wind blades, when come to the end of their life cycle, are dumped in landfills.
Landfill will not be the final destination of wind blades
But, exception to the common practice, landfill will not be the destination of the wind blade from number 19 wind mill in Bon Vent Vilalba wind farm. EDP has opted for the sustainability and the circular economy as alternatives to landfill, strengthening its commitment to the environment. EDPR and TRC consolidated their alliance recycling this wind blade that has a length of 44 meters and 6.2 Tonnes weight from Tarragona’s wind farm. This way EDPR marks a turning point in the recovery of wind blades from wind mills, allowing for the very first time in Spain the recycling of a blade to recover the fibers.
This month segmentation and collection of damaged wind blade from Bon Vent Vilalba wind farm, in Tarragona, has been carried out. This wind farm, is property of EDPR. These services was provided by Vent i Sol, an expert company in wind farm mantaince. During the works the responsible of the wind farm from EDPR, the responsible from TRC and an environmental auditor were present to verify that the works were performed with the maximum protection of the natural enviroment.
To transport the wind blade efficiently, the cutting of the wind blade in segments was necessary. During the process special suction elements were used to minimize the propagation of dust into the environment and reduce the environmental impact in the surroundings.