The first wind turbine blades were successfully recycled in Finland – a new domestic solution was created in a joint project of several actors
(The text is translated with automatic translator)
During the spring, three wind turbine generators that had been in use for more than 23 years (which were at the time the first megawatt class turbines in Finland) were dismantled in Pori. Thanks to the KiMuRa project funded by the Ministry of the Environment, they could now be recycled and utilized more efficiently – previously some of the material would have ended up in landfills or to be handled by foreign operators.
“The recycling of wind turbine generators (WTG’s) has become a topic of conversation: although turbines can be recycled 80-95 percent, their platforms have been a challenge until now. The blades are plastic composite, i.e. the same material as, for example, boats”, says the Operational Manager Heidi Paalatie from the Finnish Wind Power Association.
Light, strong and long-lasting plastic composite is constantly increasing its popularity as raw material. However, the recycling of plastic composites is a challenge for society as a whole. To tackle the challenge, the KiMuRa project was launched in January 2021.
“In the KiMuRa (Recycled Crushed Raw Material) project, Muoviteollisuus ry, the Ministry of the Environment and seven composite industry companies, together with Kuusakoski and Finnsement (who represented the end user), worked out the logistics of collecting industrial composite waste and utilizing the composite in cement production”, says expert, Ph.D. Pirjo Pietikäinen from Muoviteollisuus ry.
During 2021, a recycling operation model for plastic composite materials, the necessary sorting arrangements in companies, and circular economy logistics for waste at the Kuusakoski collection stations were created and piloted.
The blade waste from the Reposaari wind turbines was fully utilized in Finland
In May 2022, Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy dismantled three of its end-of-life WTG’s from the Reposaari wind farm in Pori. The WTG’s located next to the highways of Reposaari near the bridge were the first industrial-scale WTG’s in Finland. They were built in 1999 and represented the high technology of that time.
“We left numerous components for our own spare parts use, such as engine rooms, electrical centers, three blades, electronics and cables”, says Production Manager Leena Hacklin from Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy. “We delivered the steel tower blocks for recycling to Kuusakoski Oy, as well as aluminum and copper parts. Of the dismantled WTG’s, six blades were recycled using the solution created in the KiMuRa project”.
As the project’s recycling operator, Kuusakoski planned and implemented the crushing and storage of the accumulated waste. “Metal recycling is our core competence, and thanks to our highly refined processes, we can recycle metals up to 100 percent. In order to recycle the composite, we have done a lot of development work with the right crushing method and dust control”, says Kuusakoski’s materials manager Anu Söderena.
The work has paid off. According to Söderena, it has been estimated that with the KiMuRa project, up to 2,000 tons of waste can be avoided.
“For wind power actors, it is important that the blade waste is properly processed and certified. In the past, blades have been exported from Finland to Germany, where they have been directed to cement production”, reminds Heidi Paalatie.
The crushed blade is utilized in the parallel processing of the cement industry
Crushed plastic composite is fed to Finnsement as a raw material for the cement process, where it is 100 percent utilized. The manufacture of cement is an energy-intensive process in which the plastics used as structural components of composites replace fossil fuel. This reduces the CO2 emissions of the process significantly.
Finnsement’s head of sustainable development, Ursula Kääntee, explains the obvious benefits of the process: “The crushed blade is used in the parallel processing of plastic composite waste at the cement factory, where the materials of the composites are efficiently utilized without residual ash. Composite waste reinforcements, on the other hand, serve as raw materials in the production of clinker, which is an intermediate product of cement production.”
The waste hierarchy is not yet familiar with such a treatment method, which is a combination of energy use and recycling. However, cement production offers a more environmentally sustainable solution than waste incineration or final disposal, which are currently the only other options in an industrial scale.
“The development in the recycling sector is fast; currently, the plastic composite material obtained through the collection and processing network created at KiMuRa is directed to the manufacture of cement, but as recycling solutions develop, the final use may be another technology or solution”, Pirjo Pietikäinen reminds.
“In many applications, composite materials are essential for the realization of energy-efficient and sustainable products. Composite structures that can be optimized in many ways are used everywhere where lightness, durability and integrable properties are needed. Typical applications are transport vehicles such as airplanes, cars, trains, trams, boats and ships, as well as an ever-expanding range of different applications from the energy, process, equipment construction and sports industries”, says development manager Mika Mustakangas from Patria.
“KiMuRa is a continuation of the purposeful sustainable development work done in Finland with regard to composite materials,” he states.
Image bank © Hyötytuuli Oy
Did you know?
- Plastic composites are used not only in wind turbine blades, but also in boats, cars, airplanes, sports equipment and many other consumer products.
- Plastic composites are partly organic waste. Finland is one of the three EU countries that have already banned the disposal of organic waste in landfills.
- Finland’s WTG’s are mainly very young: more than 95 percent of the WTG’s are less than 10 years old. It is different in Germany, for example, where more than a third of the power grid is more than 15 years old.
- The European wind power industry has set itself a ban on placing blades on landfills. The ban starts in 2025.
For more information:
Muoviteollisuus ry, Pirjo Pietikäinen, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 50 370 7717
Patria Oy, Mika Mustakangas, email@example.com, tel. +358 40 869 2667
Finnish Wind Power Association
Operational Manager Heidi Paalatie, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 40 550 3858
Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy
Production Manager Leena Hacklin, email@example.com, tel. +358 44 7012182.
Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy has photos and video raw material available about the demolition of the wind turbine blades.
Material Manager Anu Söderena, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 40 709 3092
Sustainable Development Manager Ursula Kääntee, email@example.com, tel. +358 20 120 6343