With the number of wind turbines increasing rapidly worldwide, it is important to think about what happens to wind turbines at the end of their useful life. Towers are mainly made of steel and can be recycled relatively easily. But this does not apply to knives, as they are made of a mixture of fibers and glue, which are difficult to separate. Additionally, glue is often made with non-renewable chemicals and requires a lot of energy to make. The annual volume of wind turbines written between 2025 and 2030 is expected to double, to 50,000 tons.
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US state of Colorado have developed a variant of wind turbine glue that is made from bio-based chemicals and is easy to recycle. They named the product ‘Pecon’ Polyester covalently adaptable network. The gum is made from natural ingredients that can be easily obtained from bio-waste like the sweetener sorbitol. According to the NREL researchers, their discovery has some important advantages.
First, unlike conventional wind turbine glue, their glue does not require non-renewable components. Less energy is required to make glue. According to researchers, this leads to a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and requires 30 percent less energy.
Additionally, the material lends itself well to reuse. Wind farm developers can ‘depolymerize’ the resin (break down the polymers into monomers) without using a lot of energy or nasty chemicals. “This means that wind turbine blades made with PECAN resin can be recycled at a wind turbine decommissioning site, reducing traffic emissions from the blades and further decarbonizing the life cycle of each turbine.” says
NREL researcher Robin Murray.
It is important to build wind turbines that they can withstand a blow because they last longer and are exposed to harsh weather. So in terms of environmental impact a wig glue needs to be sustainable, but also strong. According to American researchers, it is in PECAN. They have conducted tests that show (in their own words) that bio-based glue outperforms conventional glue in terms of strength. In some cases even better.
NREL has so far tested the adhesive on a 9-meter prototype blade. It produced promising results. However, compared to ‘real’ blades, 9 meters is not that long. The blades used in wind turbines are several hundreds of meters long. That’s why the researchers slowly test their product on large wind turbine blades to gather more measurement data.
“Coffee fanatic. Friendly zombie aficionado. Devoted pop culture practitioner. Evil travel advocate. Typical organizer.”