Because the U.S. wind turbine industry is still so new, there aren’t too many options available to recycle turbine blades. And, according to NPR, researchers estimate that the nation will be faced with more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years.
Ninety percent of a turbine's parts can be recycled or sold, NPR points out, but the blades, which are made of a tough but pliable mix of resin and fiberglass are more complicated. Additionally, retired blades are difficult and expensive to transport, as they can be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet long and need to be cut up onsite before getting trucked away on specialized equipment to landfill.
NPR has more:
While most of a turbine can be recycled or find a second life on another wind farm, researchers estimate the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years, a figure that doesn't include newer, taller higher-capacity versions.
There aren't many options to recycle or trash turbine blades, and what options do exist are expensive, partly because the U.S. wind industry is so young. It's a waste problem that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be: a perfect solution for environmentalists looking to combat climate change, an attractive investment for companies such as Budweiser and Hormel Foods, and a job creator across the Midwest and Great Plains.