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Mexico, facing the challenge of recycling wind turbine blades
Grupo Sasti offers solutions for end-of-life parts; in Europe, by 2027, 10,000 tons of waste will be produced annually.
One of the biggest challenges facing the global wind power industry is the management of industry waste, especially in a context where many parks are approaching the end of their operational life.
In Mexico, a company proposes the reuse or recycling of wind turbine blades to align with the objective of renewable energy.
Grupo Sasti is dedicated to providing services to wind turbines, such as oil changes, aesthetic repairs of blades when they arrive on-site or have been damaged during transportation, control inspections, and more recently, they have entered the business line of scrap or recycling and reutilization of blades.
The owner of the company, Edgar Serrano, mentioned in an interview with MILENIO that this is a global issue, and particularly in Europe, it is something that should have been addressed “three days ago.” Therefore, in Mexico, the intention of the work they have been doing in the last two years is to create awareness among all parties in the sector and seek solutions for the decommissioned blades whose operational life has ended.
According to the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (Unef), the average cost of recycling is 200 euros per ton, and in Europe, between 2022 and 2027, the annual generation of waste will be around 10,000 tons, according to the Center for Energy, Environmental, and Technological Research (Ciemat).
The first park
The design of a wind turbine has an estimated lifespan of between 20 and 30 years, depending on external factors and maintenance. However, “at some point, there are also blades that were not intended for the right place.”
Mexico installed its first wind power generation park in 1994, so by 2024, the end of the equipment’s lifespan will be reached, and we will face the problem for the first time of what to do with the blades of the wind turbines that need to be managed.
“In the country, we are about to enter this stage in a few years, and that is why we have to start finding solutions,” proposed the businessman.
Sasti has two main projects in progress: one is related to the reutilization of these blades, which can be used for the manufacturing of bus stops, both urban and rural, for which there is a great need in Mexico. It is considered a very good solution.
The other project involves using the blades in electric vehicle charging stations and as façades for bridges, both pedestrian and vehicular. This is based on a plan that is already working in Denmark, where the blades are used to create shelters for bicycles, motorcycles, or other types of vehicles. There is also a need for such infrastructure in Mexico.
Serrano explained that in the recycling aspect, there is a project based in Spain where a special shredder is used to recover the fiberglass from the blades. This fiberglass is then mixed with other components to construct roads, resulting in favorable outcomes such as increased durability and resistance to extreme temperatures.
“There is a scientist in the United States from the University of Tennessee who is developing a thermal procedure that can recover fiberglass with nearly 100% quality. This recovered fiberglass can then be reused to make automotive parts, dashboards, truck beds, and even for manufacturing boats,” explained Serrano.
He pointed out that these are just a few examples of what can be done with the blades because there is a wide variety of possibilities. While they have a somewhat undeserved reputation due to the challenging process of separating their components, it is becoming less complex over time.