LM Wind Power manufactures 100% recyclable wind blade prototype

By: Dr. Franyi Sarmiento, Ph.D., Inspenet, March 24, 2022.

The Zebra consortium (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) has set a new milestone in the wind industry, with the production of its first 100% recyclable thermoplastic blade prototype at the LM blade factory in Ponferrada in Spain.

The blade measures 62 meters (equivalent to the length of two consecutive basketball fields), and has been made with Elium resin from the Arkema company (a thermoplastic resin known for its recyclability) and high-performance fiberglass from the Owens Corning company.

The Zebra project began in September 2020, and is expected to last 42 months. It has a budget of 18.5 million euros and is being led by the French institute IRT Jules Verne.

The companies Arkema, Canoe, Engie, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning and SUEZ participate in this project and its objective is to demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of large-scale manufacturing of one hundred percent recyclable blades based on the criteria of the ecodesign.

At the moment, a year and a half after the launch of the project, LM Wind Power Ponferrada has just produced its first prototype. According to LM, the liquid thermoplastic resin is ideal, due to its malleability, for the manufacture of large-sized elements through infusion processes in which it is mixed with high-performance fiberglass from Owens Corning. The resulting composite material has similar properties to thermosetting resins, but with a great added value: its recyclability.

Elium can be recycled using an advanced method called chemical recycling that allows complete depolymerization of the resin, separation of the fiber from the resin and the recovery of a virgin resinous material, ready for reuse. The method, developed by Arkema and Canoe, has already been tested on the waste resulting from the production process of the blade itself. Owens Corning is also working on finding solutions for the recycling of fiberglass through its recasting or reuse.

Simultaneously, LM reports, the consortium partners are making progress in developing and optimizing the manufacturing process through automation in order to reduce energy consumption and waste production.

According to the company, the next phase in the development of this prototype (which aspires to become the first one hundred percent recyclable thermoplastic blade in the world) passes through the LM Denmark Testing and Validation Center, where the blade produced in Ponferrada will be subjected to full-scale structural life tests in order to verify the performance and performance of the composite material from which the blade in question is made and its aptitudes, its viability, for future mass production. Once these tests have been completed, the recycling system at the end of the blade’s useful life must also be validated.

The following phases of the project will deal with the recycling of the waste that comes out of the manufacturing process, the dismantling and recycling of this first shovel and the analysis of the results that have been illuminating all the tests. The ultimate goal is that, by the end of next year, when the project ends, the consortium behind this initiative has managed to materialize the challenge of leading the wind sector to a dynamic circular economy that is fully consistent with the principles of ecodesign.

Source and photo : https://www.energias-renovables.com/eolica/lm-wind-power-ponferrada-fabrica-la-pala-20220318