Producing high-purity hydrogen from the blades of decommissioned wind turbines is a most ingenious idea. If this can be scaled up successfully, it would solve a number of challenges in one fell swoop: For one thing, it would save the effort of shredding, recycling or otherwise disposing of old blades. Instead their composite material could be usefully reclaimed. Secondly, it would open up an additional hydrogen source to help satisfy the rapidly rising demand for hydrogen. And thirdly, the process would result in an extremely clean form of carbon dioxide that could be used in various branches of industry. But before any of that is possible, a whole range of issues must first be overcome.
Richter Recycling sees great potential for salvaging material from wind power plants that have been withdrawn from service. In 2019, the waste disposal business, located in the Berlin/Brandenburg metropolitan region, took specific steps to make this idea a reality. Christian Gerstädt, lawyer and legal advisor to the German company, told H2-international that Richter Recycling began a collaboration with Plagazi from southern Sweden 2 years ago and to that end acquired a 30-acre (12-hectare) plot of land in the Premnitz Industrial Park (IPP).
It is here – at the site of a viscose manufacturing plant that was demolished in 2016 – that hydrogen could be produced in years to come. Almost in anticipation of this development, Gerstädt founded Neue Energien Premnitz in early 2015, a business he runs as company director.
Rotor blade recycling
Franz Richter, director of Richter Recycling, plans to use old rotor blades as the starting material for the hydrogen recovery process. These consist of a carbon composite material that is built to withstand the stresses and strains that wind turbines have to endure, including ultraviolet radiation, the weather, temperature variations and vibrations. When a turbine is dismantled, however, this material is then considered, in Gerstädt’s words, “nothing more than non-recyclable waste.”
Because the first wind plants to be constructed under Germany’s renewable energy law EEG at the turn of the millennium are nearing 20 years of service, these plants are due to be scrapped in the months and years ahead. This then raises the question of what to do with them. The entire German wind sector is facing the challenge of finding suitable routes for disposing of or reusing this equipment to avoid the creation of huge scrap heaps, as has already happened in North America. Up until now, waste of this type has often been exported to Asia.
The timing is therefore apt. A fact which is also not lost on Plagazi SE. The Båstad-based enterprise promises a patented plasmalysis process that is capable of vaporizing the composite materials. According to the company, this procedure calls for very high amounts of energy but a large proportion of the thermal energy needed is basically supplied within the material itself. […]
… Read this article to the end in the latest H2-International