Thursday, July 18, 2024

Turning wind turbine blades into bridges to reduce waste


Last month, three 40-foot-long wind turbine blades were delivered from a Belfast wind farm to southern Ireland’s Cork Institute of Technology. The institute’s civil engineers will expose the blades to a battery of tests as they create a pedestrian bridge that will use parts of the blade as a replacement to traditional steel girders.

Construction of the blade bridge is expected to be finished by April this year. Once complete, the Cork County Council will pick it up and install it on a major bicycle route connecting Middletown and Youghal. If this experimental blade bridge is a success, it could be the first of many worldwide.

Civil engineering Ph.D. student Angela Nagle, of the University College Cork, envisions dozens of these bridges connecting towns in the Irish countryside in the future. “What I’d love to do is turn it into a blade waste brokerage business,” said Nagle. Since 11,000 tons of blades are projected to be decommissioned across Ireland by 2025, there should be plenty of material to work with.

Nagle’s blades-to-bridges vision is part of an emerging and fast-growing effort to find innovative solutions to blade waste. Nagle and the Re-Wind project members are confident that wind turbine blades can be repurposed for bridges, electrical transmission towers, and other significant structures since the blades are huge and sturdy.

Meanwhile, General Electric (GE) has a different approach to dealing with blade waste. The multinational conglomerate recently announced it has begun converting retired wind turbine blades into cement, while engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are creating new materials that could make the blades far more recyclable than existing blades. Read more…

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