Aren't wind turbine blades made of generally annoying/nasty stuff such as various interesting epoxy components and glass fiber?
I've seen how sick working with manufacturing can make people, so I'm not sure I'd want kids exposed, since they'll crawl around on them and touch them, likely wearing the material down and releasing small particles that may get into the skin or airways.
When I saw communities setting up these wind turbines in order to virtue signal, I knew exactly what the outcome would be. Here we are, not 10 years later, most of the turbines are inoperable and require very expensive repairs to get working again. Most will be torn down.
"...Ninety percent of a turbine's parts can be recycled or sold, according to Van Vleet, but the blades, made of a tough but pliable mix of resin and fiberglass — similar to what spaceship parts are made from — are a different story.
'The blades are kind of a dud because they have no value,' he said.
Decommissioned blades are also notoriously difficult and expensive to transport. They can be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet long and need to be cut up onsite before getting trucked away on specialized equipment — which costs money — to the landfill. ..."
I know that material fatigues over time, but 225,000 tons of turbine blades annually sounds excessive. Why so much waste?
Couldn't older ones be retro-fitted with newer rotating internal components to extend the life of the structural components and the blades? I just can't see such a massive structure being discarded just to be replaced with a unit which is probably very similar.
Wish we could do something similar with solar cells. Seems to me, that some sections could be used to make streamlined coffins -- so you can slip into the afterlife a little faster. Maybe a blade tip could be placed on a turret of a ship, so as to generate a little extra push, in much the same way sails did a century ago. I suppose that such material would make excellent berm material when constructing levees. The list goes on...
... cisterns; vessels to hold petrochemicals at plants; artificial reef substrate (check with an environmental scientist first); roofs at out-door shelters (as may be found at highway rest-stops); plinths for a Neo-antiquity Stonehenge; I could go on...
Wind turbine blades, such as those used on this playground, are typically not recycled and have little scrap value. Their structure is primarily of fiberglass, some with carbon fiber, often with foam and balsa wood as well. There is some metal, typically in the lightning protection system (copper and aluminum) and blade root (blade studs, covers, possibly a steel blade root insert), but they do not comprise the majority of the structure. On decommissioning it is relatively common for blades to be shredded and landfilled.
Humanity currently dumps about 2 billion tonnes of waste every year. That's ten thousand times as much as this (projected) figure. And we are currently producing about 400 million tonnes of plastic per year, which is itself about two thousand times as much.
There is no particular reason to expect all of decommissioned wind turbine waste to get shredded into landfill. The core of modern blades is mainly balsawood, metal parts should be recyclable, fiberglass is inert and probably recyclable. The small fraction of epoxy and coatings should certainly be processed responsibly.
The fuel rods themselves are only a part of the total waste. After about 50 years you also have to effectively landfill the entire reactor - securely away from the water table. And meanwhile there's a constant stream of process chemicals and disposable protective gear.
It looks like current "high level waste" (fuel rods) production is about 30,000 tonnes a year.
For the problem of global warming itself, given positive EROI, it's better to have those turbines and emit that less carbon. But for the problem of not running out of resources, it may be worse.
In a way, under existing economic regime you can pretty much consider renewables as non-renewable energy sources. A wind turbine doesn't burn non-renewable fuel, but it does "burn" non-renewable construction materials. Of course, climate change is the more pressing problem now, but I'm not 100% sure how much more pressing, given the exponents involved in all of this.
Most of all, just thinking about how even renewable energy is entirely embedded in our process of transforming raw resources into waste (with a little bit of economic value extracted in the middle) just breaks my heart.
Most of all, just thinking about how even renewable energy is entirely embedded in our process of transforming raw resources into waste (with a little bit of economic value extracted in the middle)...
This is really just the second law of thermodynamics making its presence felt (not to imply that we're anywhere near close to some kind of entropic limit in the construction of wind turbines, but as a rule of thumb: in the process of doing useful work, things degrade).
I'd say definitely better. You can probably throw them into the garbage power plants, and if not it's still a much more manageable problem. More tangible too, which is one of the big tragedies of carbon emissions.
The article mentions "composite material". From the pictures it is hard to say whether it is fiberglass/polyester, carbon fiber/epoxy or what; but either way these materials are much harder to recycle than steel.
Most metals are relatively easily recycled. Therefore scrap metal has value as feedstock for production of new equipment. A modern wind turbine tower might have 150 metric tons of steel in it, which absolutely makes sense to recycle.