Can wind turbines be recycled?


When wind turbines eventually reach the end of their lifespan, we recycle up to 95% of what they’re made of. We’ve made a commitment to find the right recycling solutions for the final 5%, too.

Question:


Are landfill sites filling up with old wind turbines? If so, isn’t the problem only going to get worse?

Fact:


Up to 95% of a wind turbine can currently be recycled, and we’re working on the last 5%.


A small but significant challenge


The wind will keep blowing forever, but the turbines used to turn the wind into renewable energy do eventually wear out and need replacing. When we decommission a wind farm, we are currently able to recycle between 85 and 95% of the materials that make up the turbines – mostly steel.

The turbine blades, however, are more difficult to dispose of. They’re designed to be lightweight but highly durable, and are usually made or fiberglass or carbon fiber, held together with resin. This cannot be easily or efficiently broken down for recycling.

Nonetheless, with the one wind farm Ørsted has decommissioned so far, Vindeby in Denmark, 98% of the composite material was either recycled or used for research or exhibition, including all the turbine blades.

Ørsted's landfill ban


In June 2021, Ørsted committed never to send turbine blades to landfill, instead reusing, recycling or otherwise recovering all blades from newly decommissioned onshore and offshore wind farms.

We’re following new recycling innovations closely and working with commercial and academic partners to develop our own. If it takes longer than anticipated to find recycling solutions that are both environmentally sustainable and commercially viable, we will store any decommissioned blades temporarily to save them from landfill.

Image alt text: Can wind turbines be recycled?

Solutions on the horizon


With many of the earliest wind farms around the world approaching decommissioning, blade recycling is a high priority for the wind industry. Technologies are already emerging for recycling existing types of blades – for example into fiber boards for flooring and walls. Meanwhile, blade manufacturers like Siemens Gamesa have recently begun deploying new materials in their blades, making them more easily recyclable in the first place.1
85-95% of a wind turbine can be recycled
Will Skipjack Wind 2 turbines be recycled?
A modern wind farm like Skipjack 2 is designed to provide at least 25 years of reliable service at sea. When turbines reaches their end-of-life, Ørsted has established recycling processes for up to 95% of the materials. However, as blades are still a challenge, Ørsted has committed to not landfill these, and is working together with the rest the industry to find feasible solutions.
What is offshore wind power?
What is offshore wind power?

Offshore wind power explained

How we capture the power of the wind at sea to produce clean, reliable electricity