GE Renewable Energy signed an agreement with Veolia to recycle its onshore wind turbine blades in the United States. This recycling contract, the first of its kind in the U.S. wind turbine industry, will turn the blades into a raw material for use in cement manufacturing. The result: a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 13% reduction in water consumption. A single wind turbine blade that weighs 7 US tons recycled through this process enables the cement kiln to avoid consuming nearly 5 tons of coal, 2.7 tons of silica, 1.9 tons of limestone, and nearly a ton of additional mineral-based raw materials.
This solution, which can be rapidly deployed at scale, increases the environmental benefits of the wind industry.
In order to turn the blades into raw material, Veolia will use a co-processing solution that has already proven its effectiveness in Europe: once removed from the wind turbines, the blades - mainly composed of fiberglass - will be shredded at a Veolia plant in Missouri. The resulting material will then be used in the kilns to replace the coal, sand and clay needed to make cement. More than 90% of the blade will be reused: 65% as raw material in the cement plants, and 28% transformed into energy required for the chemical reaction in the kiln.
„Sustainable disposal of composites such as wind turbine blades has been a challenge, not only for the wind turbine industry, but also for aerospace, maritime, automotive and construction industries“, explains Anne McEntee, CEO of GE Renewable Energy's Digital Services Business
"By recycling wind turbine blades for use in cement manufacturing, we reduce the amount of coal, sand and minerals needed and so produce greener cement. We have processed more than 100 blades so far“, added Bob Cappadona, CEO for Veolia North America's Environmental Solutions and Services Division.
In Missouri, the Veolia treatment plant located 70 miles (110 km) northwest of Saint-Louis, employs 20 people.