The wind industry has taken a significant step towards achieving a circular economy with the announcement by the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) consortium that it has successfully completed full-scale validation testing of the first recyclable wind-turbine blade and production of the second recyclable thermoplastic blade.
The second blade, measuring 77 metres in length, was made at LM Wind Power’s blade plant in Castellón, Spain, using Arkema’s thermoplastic liquid resin Elium, which is known for its recyclability, and Owens Corning’s high-performance glass fabrics. It features a new Carbon-Elium resin spar cap technology and a new adhesive from Arkema’s subsidiary Bostik.
Importantly, the second ZEBRA blade is a world-first in using recycled Elium resin in the manufacture of a shear web – a structurally important component of the blade – and demonstrates the potential of the resin technology to deliver sustainable blade designs and simulating the circularity of the Elium resin.
‘The ZEBRA project is proceeding according to schedule and will soon deliver its final results,’ said Guillaume Sana, project leader at the IRT Jules Verne, a member of the ZEBRA consortium. ‘The successful achievement of the test campaign on the first blade and the completion of this second blade represents a major achievement both for the consortium and for the wind-energy industry as a whole. The next major milestones for 2024 will be the delivery of a complete life-cycle analysis based on the blades produced in the frame of the ZEBRA project, the focus on recycling activities and the completion of validation testing on the second blade containing the new Carbon-Elium resin spar cap.
Following the manufacture of the first recyclable blade in March 2022, the ZEBRA consortium initiated a further intensive development and testing phase to develop the necessary technologies to manufacture a Carbon-Elium resin spar design. This included material and process development to ensure that the necessary mechanical properties could be achieved and, in close collaboration with LM Wind Power, the necessary manufacturing process could be developed to ensure the manufacture of full-scale components.
‘The second ZEBRA blade builds on the learnings and valuable insights gained from the creation of the first blade and has helped us understand the structural potential to use Elium resin in carbon blades,’ said John Korsgaard, a senior director at LM Wind Power. ‘It complements the efforts led by our partners to demonstrate the recycling technologies for Elium-based composites using glass fibre and even carbon fibre. This blade marks a key milestone for the ZEBRA project and highlights the significance of plant collaboration in new technology development, in addition to supporting sustainability objectives for our company and our customers.’
‘Our involvement in this consortium is part of our strategy to be “sustainable by design”, which means taking into account environmental sustainability from the design phase of products so they can be recycled and reused,’ said a spokesperson from Owens Corning. ‘The testing done around the first blade produced demonstrated the performance and compatibility of Owens Corning’s glass fibre product with Elium resin and long-blade manufacturing requirements. This second blade serves as evidence that our products can maintain the performance and recyclability of even larger wind turbine blades.’
The first recyclable ZEBRA blade has successfully completed full-scale validation testing at LM Wind Power’s Test and Validation Centre in Denmark, with recycling tests currently ongoing. Full-scale structural lifetime testing of the second blade has already started, with successful completion of static testing, where the blade is exposed to extreme loads.
Launched in September 2020, the ZEBRA project is a unique partnership led by French research centre IRT Jules Verne and brings together industrial companies including Arkema, CANOE, ENGIE, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning and SUEZ. The project’s aim is to demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental relevance of thermoplastic wind-turbine blades on a full scale, with an eco-design approach to facilitate recycling.