A cross-sector consortium has launched a ground-breaking project to design and manufacture the first 100% recyclable wind turbine blade
The ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project, driven by French research centre IRT Jules Verne, brings together companies and technical centres to demonstrate the potential benefits of thermoplastic wind turbine blades. The 42-month project has a budget of €18.5M (US$21.8M).
IRT Jules Verne ZEBRA project manager Céline Largeau said, “Demonstrating a circular approach to wind turbine blades throughout their lifetime requires a consortium covering the whole value chain.”
LM Wind Power senior director advanced technology systems Torben Jacobsen said, “Using Elium resin, combined with design, manufacturing and recycling process optimisation, provides an opportunity to reduce the cost, production time and environmental impact of wind turbine blades.”
Apart from IRT Jules Verne and LM Wind, the ZEBRA consortium also includes Arkema, the developer of the Elium resin, and R&D centre Canoe, which developed an innovative recycling process for fibre-reinforced acrylic composites.
It also includes Engie, one of the world’s leading developers and operators of windfarms. Also participating in the project is Owens Corning, one of the world’s leading glass fibre and composites companies.
Arkema says the major advantage of Elium is that it behaves like a thermoplastic, which means it is suitable for thermoforming and recycling.
The company developed Elium with recycling via depolymerisation in mind. After being finely ground, the resin can be heat-depolymerised and recovered and purified into a resin with the same properties as the virgin resin. The remaining carbon or glass fibres can be reused.
Prior to the ZEBRA project, Arkema was involved in the Effiwind consortium, which aimed to manufacture a 25-m wind turbine blade, validate the infusion process and feasibility of producing larger blades on an industrial scale.
During the ZEBRA project, LM Wind will design and manufacture two prototype blades using Elium, to test and validate the behaviour of the material and the feasibility of producing it on an industrial scale.
The project partners will also focus on developing and optimising manufacturing processes, and on using automation to reduce energy consumption and waste from production. They will also explore methods to recycle materials used in the prototype blades into new products and conduct a lifecycle analysis to assess the environmental and economic viability of utilising the thermoplastic material in future wind turbine blades.