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.