The average working life of a wind turbine is 30 years. Conscious of the challenges of recycling, energy generators are already developing their dismantling strategies. National legislation and European directives are also addressing the same issues in parallel. Given the urgency of the situation, what effective solutions do we have for recycling the steel masts, lubricating oils and resin/fibre turbine blades?
Reciclalia provides a unique and comprehensive solution for recycling decommissioned wind turbine blades. How? This Spanish start-up has developed two powerfully innovative technologies. Its Constrictor service cuts and shreds the structure on site. Its CRS technology uses a thermal reactor to separate the glass and carbon fibres by extracting the resin. The cleaned materials are then resold to the energy, transport and construction industries. This ingenious process responds effectively to an immediate need for waste management, and avoids the need to extract new raw materials from nature.
The qualities of the project were awarded by the Grand Jury with the “Environmental impact” mention.
Category: CO2 Neutral Territories
Alfonso Bernabé, David Romero and Alejandro Álvarez have their own distinct areas of expertise: economics and international trade, environmental management and industrial technical engineering respectively. The team works closely with FIDAMC (the Spanish foundation for the research, development and application of composite materials) on researching and developing products made from recycled materials.
Reciclalia has its origins in considerations around the essential values of glass and carbon fibres. Valued for their light weight and strength, both materials are used in many key sectors of the economy, including wind turbine blades, car bodywork and aircraft wings. But at the end of their working lives, many of these products end up in landfill. But in reality, this ‘waste’ is a really valuable resource. Given that there was no established processing and management system for composite waste, we decided to investigate the possibilities further. Our technology was born out of several years of engineering work, and has now been developed to the point of proven effectiveness. In just 1 hour, we process composite fibre casings that would have taken nearly 1,000 years to decompose in nature.
What are the most recent developments for your start-up?
At the beginning of 2020, we were finalists in the Sustainable Industrial Challenge in the Netherlands, and it was an enormous honour to have been selected from among 250 innovative companies from around the world. We’ve also recently joined the InnoEnergy Acceleration Programme following our selection by the European Institute of Technology & Innovation (EIT). Our membership will boost our commercial strategy and help us to raise the funding needed to accelerate the growth of our company in Europe.
What’s been the most unexpected thing that’s happened as a result of the start-up?
Last year, we were able to showcase our start-up to secondary school students as part of a science week. The environment, sustainable development and the circular economy are all appealing concepts for today’s rising generations. We were pleasantly surprised by their interest, and they asked a great many questions. They were so interested to chat with us that they actually missed their break time. That kind of reaction gives hope to science in its quest to build a better world.
So how does your project revolutionise your category?
Reciclalia is revolutionising the management and treatment of composite waste. Recycling materials avoids the need to consume new raw materials. Recycling also creates a virtuous circular economy, because the fibres we recover are fed back into the market as new materials. And recycling completes the life cycle of materials. The result of that is that we have the potential to minimise our carbon footprint by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the composite materials industry by 25%.