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End of wind power waste? Vestas unveils blade recycling technology

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By Tim Barsoe

COPENHAGEN, May 17 (Reuters) - Wind turbine maker Vestas unveiled new technology on Monday which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades.

Turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050, according to a 2017 University of Cambridge study. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle.

The new technology will "be a significant milestone in enabling a future where landfill is no longer required in blade decommissioning," Allan Poulsen, Vestas' head of sustainability and advanced materials, said in a statement.

Turbine blades are made by heating a mix of glass or carbon fibres and sticky epoxy resin, which combines the materials, providing a strong light-weight composite material, but which also make it hard to separate the original materials for recycling.

Using the new technology the glass or carbon fibre is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials, that are "similar to virgin materials" that can then be used for construction of new blades. Vestas said.

The project is a cooperation between Vestas; chemical producer Olin, which produces resin for turbine blades; the Danish Technological Institute, an independent research and technology institute; and Denmark's Aarhus University.

The project aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years and also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components. (Reporting by Tim Barsoe; Editing by Susan Fenton)