Ørsted commits to sustainable recycling of wind turbine blades
Ørsted announced a number of ambitions last week to help the company expand its leading sustainability position and achieve net-zero emissions across the company’s entire carbon footprint by 2040. For one, the Danish energy company wants to reuse, recycle or recover after decommissioning all wind turbine blades in its worldwide portfolio of onshore and offshore wind farms.
Ørsted has built 7.5 GW offshore wind and 1.7 GW onshore wind to date. The company aims to realize 30 GW offshore wind and 17.5 GW onshore energy production, including onshore wind by 2030. So far, only the Danish offshore wind farm Vindeby has been decommissioned. In this case, all rotor blades have been reused. The company wants to look further at circularity.
Today, between 85 % and 95 % of a wind turbine can be recycled, but recycling of wind turbine blades remains a challenge, as the blades are designed to be lightweight, yet durable, making them challenging to break apart. Consequently, most decommissioned blades are landfilled. Should the challenge with recycling blades take longer to solve than anticipated, Ørsted will not use landfilling for decommissioned wind turbine blades, but will instead temporarily store the blades.
“Our ambition is to offer our customers carbon-neutral renewable energy solutions with responsible use of resources, seen from a life cycle perspective. This requires decarbonising our supply chain, and it involves moving to more circular models of resource use in the wind turbine supply chain,” says Mads Nipper,” CEO of Ørsted.
“I hope that our commitment will inspire others which will help to bring scale to the market for recycling solutions of wind turbine blades, thereby accelerating the cost-out journey of the alternatives to landfilling, and help boost the already ongoing innovation in the wind energy supply chain on how to design to avoid waste.”
Ørsted is already contributing to advance the technologies that can recycle wind turbine blades in a sustainable way as a founding partner of the cross-sector DecomBlades consortium consisting of wind industry companies and research institutions. The consortium seeks to investigate and develop solutions to recycle the composite material in wind turbine blades. The consortium recently received a three-year funding from Innovation Fund Denmark for its work.
Net positive impact on biodiversity
Another ambition of Ørsted is to deliver a net positive impact on biodiversity from all new renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030 at the latest.
“The build-out of green energy must go hand-in-hand with protection of natural habitats and wildlife, including in our oceans,” says Nipper, That’s why we decided to build in the criterion that all new projects that we start developing from now on should have a net positive impact on biodiversity. This means that all renewable energy projects commissioned by Ørsted will have a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2030 at the latest.”
In developing new projects in offshore wind, onshore wind, solar PV and energy storage, and green hydrogen, Ørsted will systematically implement initiatives that ensure an overall net positive contribution to natural ecosystems, habitats and species in and around the these projects. The company will also seek to identify initiatives that could have a positive impact on biodiversity before 2030.
Ørsted has delivered initiatives such as artificial reefs to support Atlantic cod at Borssele 1 & 2 in the Netherlands; monitoring of crustacean habitats at Westermost Rough in the UK; and a programme to protect and conserve the North Atlantic right whale.
Challenges in achieving the target
The company still sees challenges to be solved in realizing the new ambition. One is the lack of industry-wide standardized approaches to measuring impact on biodiversity. Especially in offshore environments, which are more dynamic and variable due to the forces of oceans, establishing a baseline and measuring the change is more complex. Ørsted has therefore joined the Science Based Targets Network Corporate Engagement Program to help develop natural science goals and promote the long-term development of tools and guidelines to measure the impact and dependence on biodiversity, land, water and oceans. Source: Ørsted