Greenway pedestrian and cycle bridges from repurposed wind turbine blades

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Leahy, Paul G.
Zhang, Zoe
Nagle, Angela J.
Ruane, Kieran
Delaney, Emma
McKinley, Jennifer
Bank, Lawrence
Gentry, T. Russell
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Irish Transport Research Network (ITRN)
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Greenways are long-distance walking and cycling routes, often developed along the routes of disused railways. Greenways therefore are a means of repurposing underused infrastructure to provide sustainable transport. They also offer benefits for leisure activities, rural development and tourism. The network of greenways in the Republic of Ireland is projected to grow to 240 km by 2022, and a further 800 km of long-distance pathways has been proposed. The Irish government announced â ¬64m in funding for greenway projects in 2020, with further commitments to sustainable transport spending in the 2020 Programme for Government. In Northern Ireland there is 1,000 km of abandoned former transport routes with the potential for development as greenways. Many of the proposed greenway routes will need extensive works. In many cases, bridges and overpasses are in poor condition and will require complete reconstruction. Alongside the repurposing of disused railways as sustainable transport routes, there is an opportunity to reuse another type of repurposed infrastructure to create functional and attractive new bridges on greenways: end-of-life decommissioned wind turbine blades. Wind turbine blades are made of durable, lightweight and strong fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials. They are difficult to recycle by conventional methods, but are ideally suited to repurposing. A US-Ireland-Northern Ireland initiative, the Re-Wind network, has created designs for several new artefacts from repurposed wind turbine blades, including a pedestrian bridge. In this paper we will show the advantages of the blade bridge design for deployment on greenways, show details of the testing and design of the worldâ s first repurposed greenway blade bridge, scheduled for installation on the Midleton-Youghal Greenway in Co. Cork in 2021, and outline the environmental and social advantages of using repurposed FRP blades in new infrastructure such as bridges. The paper also discusses the future expected flow of end-of-life blades from decommissioned wind turbines in Ireland and how this can be aligned with repurposing opportunities.
Circular economy , Repurposed infrastructure , Sustainable transport , Composite materials
Leahy, P. G., Zhang, Z., Nagle, A. J., Ruane, K., Delaney, E., McKinley, J., Bank, L. and Gentry, T. R. (2021) 'Greenway pedestrian and cycle bridges from repurposed wind turbine blades', Proceedings of ITRN 2021, University of Limerick, 26-27 August, ID-22 (8pp).
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