On December 8, GE Renewable Energy signed an agreement with Veolia to recycle its onshore wind turbine blades in the United States. This recycling contract, the first of its kind in the U.S. wind turbine industry, will turn the blades into a raw material for use in cement manufacturing. The result: a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions. This solution, which can be rapidly deployed at scale, increases the environmental benefits of the wind industry.
In order to turn the blades into raw material, Veolia will use a co-processing solution that has already proven its effectiveness in Europe: once removed from the wind turbines, the blades - mainly composed of fiberglass - will be shredded at a Veolia plant in Missouri. The resulting material will then be used in the kilns to replace the coal, sand and clay needed to make cement. More than 90% of the blade will be reused: 65% as raw material in the cement plants, and 28% transformed into energy required for the chemical reaction in the kiln.
In Missouri, the Veolia treatment plant located 70 miles (110 km) northwest of Saint-Louis, employs 20 people.
An environmental impact analysis
According to Quantis U.S., the net effect of blade recycling through cement kiln co-processing is a 27% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 13% reduction in water consumption. A single wind turbine blade that weighs 7 US tons recycled through this process enables the cement kiln to avoid consuming nearly 5 tons of coal, 2.7 tons of silica, 1.9 tons of limestone, and nearly a ton of additional mineral-based raw materials.
It also has a net-positive environmental impact on human health, ecosystem quality, and resource consumption. The resulting cement has the same properties and performance as cement manufactured using traditional means, meeting all applicable ASTM standards.
GE Renewable Energy is committed to reducing environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of its products, including by achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020. GE Renewable Energy’s businesses regularly partner up with leaders, such as Veolia, across its products' value chains to improve environmental performance.