Evaluating the environmental impacts of recycling wind turbines

Journal Article

Title: Evaluating the environmental impacts of recycling wind turbines
Authors: Jensen, J.
Publication Date:
October 30, 2018
Journal: Wind Energy
Volume: 22
Issue: 2
Pages: 316-326
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Technology Type:

Document Access

Website: External Link


Jensen, J. (2018). Evaluating the environmental impacts of recycling wind turbines. Wind Energy, 22(2), 316-326.

Wind power is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources. The wind turbines have an expected design lifetime in the range of 20 to 25 years after which decommissioning is expected. The trend in the wind turbine industry is that the turbines increase in size—especially when considering offshore wind turbines in the 7 to 8 MW size range. Life cycle assessments show that the materials used for manufacturing the turbines accounts for 70 to 80% of the environmental impact, so ensuring optimal recycling at the end‐of‐service‐life is of economic and environmental interest and in line with the principles of transitioning towards a circular economy. The decommissioning and recycling process is analysed in this paper, with special considerations given to the environmental aspects of a theoretical 100% recyclability scenario. This includes cradle‐to‐gate life‐cycle inventory analysis of the materials, embedded energy, and CO2‐equivalent emissions. The findings show that established recycling methods are present for most of the materials and that recycling of a 60 MW wind park at end‐of‐service‐life provides environmental benefits as well as lowering the natural resource use and securing resources for use in the future. The saved energy is estimated to approximately 81 TJ. The reduction in emissions related to the recycling of wind turbine material totals approximately 7351 ton CO2.

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