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Bob Meinetz's picture
Nuclear Power Policy Activist Independent

I am a passionate advocate for the environment and nuclear energy. With the threat of climate change, I’ve embarked on a mission to help overcome the fears of nuclear energy. I’ve been active in...

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  • Mar 3, 2022
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"Right across the road from the town cemetery in Sweetwater, Texas, sits another graveyard where the dead are never buried. Some 4,000 worn-out giant wind turbine blades are piled as far as the eye can see, taking up most of a 25-acre field.

Windmill blades can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing – more than 300ft – and weigh up to eight tons, so these have been sawn into three pieces with a diamond-encrusted industrial saw. They’re still imposingly big, although now increasingly covered in weeds.

They’ve been here for five years and, given a recycling company’s failure so far to deal with them, are almost certain to remain for many more – an unsightly monument to ‘clean’ energy’s dirty little secret.

Hailed by the green lobby as one of the most under-used renewable energy sources, carbon-free wind power is on the rise.

The enormous white windmills are sprouting on land and off coastlines in ever-greater numbers, including in Britain, which is building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

But they come with a hidden environmental cost that is rarely mentioned: they don’t last for ever: only 20 to 25 years, in fact. And the blades, built from a ‘composite’ of fibreglass and resin that can withstand hurricane-force winds but be light enough to turn, cannot easily be crushed, let alone recycled."

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Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Mar 3, 2022

4,000 worn out blades 32,000 tonnes of waste according to the article enough for 1,300 2-2.5 MW turbines. In Texas, that is enough energy for 11,000 GWh/y for 25 years. That works out at 115 grams of waste per MWh. Compared to coal at 100-300 kg of solid waste + 1,100 kg of airbourne pollutants it is a no brainer. Nuclear which produces irradiated fuel assemblies (not just the fuel) still has 2 grams/MWh however that waste to be stored in pools then casks so the storage cost is far higher than leaving wind turbine blades in an open field.

 But the good news Bob is that methods have been developed for recycling turbine blades.

 “On December 8, 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. This solution, which can be rapidly deployed at scale, increases the environmental benefits of the wind industry.” 

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