Photo: Aker Solutions (Illustration)

Aker and Strathclyde Uni collaborating on wind turbine blade recycling

Aker Offshore Wind, Aker Horizons and the University of Strathclyde have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on accelerating recycling glass fiber used in wind turbine blades.

The aim of the MoU is to drive forward the development of recovery processes for used glass fiber products, including a novel process developed at the Strathclyde University.

The parties plan to scale up and commercialize a process developed at lab scale by Strathclyde University for thermal recovery and post-treatment of glass fibers from glass-reinforced polymer composites (GRP) scrap to achieve near-virgin quality glass fibers.

Findings from the university indicate a global increase of wind turbine blade waste from around 400,000 tons per annum in 2030 to around two million tons by 2050. This means that recyclability and recycled content are increasingly important in construction processes.

Developed by the university’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the GRP Recycling can turn composite waste into re-usable fiber reinforcement and could serve 50% of global glass fiber demand if implemented worldwide.

As the process produces both mid- to high-value fibers, a broad spectrum of the market can be covered, ranging from less demanding to high-performance products, the university emphasized.

“This is a challenge not only for the wind power industry, but for all industries reliant on GRP materials in their production and manufacturing, said Liu Yang, Head of Advanced Composites Group at the University of Strathclyde. “Retaining and redeploying the embodied energy in the fibres is essential as we move to a more circular economy.”