Life cycle assessment of the use of decommissioned wind blades in second life applications

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Nagle, Angela J.
Mullally, Gerard
Leahy, Paul G.
Dunphy, Niall P.
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53,000 tonnes of blade waste from on-shore wind farms will potentially be generated in Ireland by 2040. The recycling of blades, which are made from composite material, is costly and thus far no high volume recycling solution exists. Repurposing blades into second life structures is an alternative which is gaining in popularity, but has many challenges. Green Public Procurement has the potential to help drive demand for blade products in Irish public works. The Re-Wind project has generated a Design Atlas with 47 blade product concepts and these are screened for their ability to overcome repurposing challenges. Three Irish scenarios are developed based on this ranking, maximal utilization of the blade, and on the end customer. Life Cycle Assessment is used to determine the marginal environmental impacts of the raw material substitution provided by the use of blade material. Focusing on greenhouse gas emissions, an estimated 342 kg CO2 e can be saved for every tonne of blade waste used in these scenarios. Blade substitution of steel products was found to provide the most impact, followed by substitution of concrete products. Although repurposing is unlikely to offer an end-of-life solution for all Irish blade waste, the use of 20% of this material annually would divert 315 tonnes of blade waste from landfill, as well as avoiding emissions of 71,820 kg CO2 e. Green procurement has the potential to create a demand for repurposed blade products, which in turn could create jobs in high unemployment areas. Utilization of repurposed, local material could contribute to creating resiliency in supply chains. Both job creation and supply chain resiliency are essential for a post-Covid recovery in Ireland.
Wind energy , Wind blades , Repurposing , Life cycle assessment , Sustainable procurement , Circular economy
Nagle, A. J., Mullally, G., Leahy, P. G. and Dunphy, N. P. (2022) 'Life cycle assessment of the use of decommissioned wind blades in second life applications', Journal of Environmental Management, 302 (Part A), 113994 (15pp). doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.113994
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