Winds of change: Creating a recyclable wind turbine blade

Good Thursday afternoon to you, readers. Wind is an effective renewable energy source, but sustainability challenges arise when considering the life cycle of wind infrastructure. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Arkema partnered on a project to create wind turbine blades from a new material that is recyclable. The project has the potential to transform the wind industry and its sustainability while also lowering costs.

NREL researcher Robynne Murray works on a thermoplastic composite turbine blade. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

  • The research team demonstrated that a thermoplastic resin is structurally sound for making composite turbine blades. The material makes blades more recyclable and might allow for lighter, longer-life, and lower-cost blades.

  • Currently, blades are primarily made with fiberglass infused with a thermoset material, which requires more energy and human labor to manufacture, and they typically end up in landfills at end of life.

  • The new process could reduce blade manufacturing costs by 5%. It might also allow for on-site blade manufacturing, which would reduce transportation challenges including cost and emissions, especially as the industry trends toward longer, larger blades.

  • The new material could reduce maintenance costs over time. “The thermoplastic material absorbs more energy from loads on the blades due to the wind, which can reduce the wear and tear from these loads to the rest of the turbine system, which is a good thing,” said researcher Robynne Murray in a news release.

🚘 TRANSPORTATION:

  • The CEO of Dayton, Ohio-based advanced material manufacturer Global Graphene Group holds nearly three dozen patents for coatings that prevent degradation in lithium-ion batteries, which could increase the range of electric vehicles by up to 20%, reports the Dayton Business Journal. The company already works with auto giants including General Motors and hopes for more growth as manufacturers’ EV interest surges.

  • Environmental groups and public transit advocates say they’ve largely been left out of Michigan’s newly formed Council on Future Mobility and Electrification and the focus heavily skews toward personal automobiles instead of a variety of mobility innovations, reports Energy News Network.

🌞 SOLAR: The guessing game has ended for the future of imported bifacial solar panel tariff exemptions: The United States Court of International Trade ruled they’re off the table, reports Solar Power World. Back-and-forth legal wrangling has occurred for more than a month following President Trump’s executive order last month recommending an end to bifacial solar panels’ exemption and an increase in the tariff amount.

💵 INVESTMENT: St. Paul-based Brown Venture Group, a venture capital firm formed to fund Black, Latino, and Native American technology entrepreneurs, is providing a seed round of equity funding for e-mobility company Ecolution KWH, which recently patented its process to use “wasted” kinetic energy in moving vehicles to generate electricity in a large-scale microgrid.

🔌 UTILITIES: Utility Dive examines how climate risks are threatening utilities across the country and the infrastructure investments they will make to mitigate the risks. Midwest utilities Ameren, DTE Energy, Exelon, WEC Energy Group, and Xcel Energy are included in the analysis.

🔬 RESEARCH: Ohio State University is seeking approval to construct its proposed $36.7 million, 52,000-square-foot Energy Advancement and Innovation Center to accelerate sustainable energy innovation. The facility reportedly would attract more world-class researchers and companies to the area and drive energy technology development.

Ohio State University Energy Advancement and Innovation Center site plan.

🏆 HONORS: Winners have been announced for Minnesota’s 2020 Tekne Awards to honor technology innovators throughout the state. Electronics recycling and refurbishment business Tech Dump won the “tech for good” awards, and Claros Technologies won the “sustainable resources” award.


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Centered is a publication of the Energy News Network, in partnership with the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation and mHUB.