As wind energy grows, so do piles of out-of-commission wind blades. This is an emerging challenge in North Dakota.
So, what happens with these blades?
Chuck Hyatt, the Director of the Division of Waste Management for NDDEQ, says about 95% of wind towers are recyclable. They’re made of metal. But the over 100-foot blades are made of fiberglass, and the discussion of what to do with them is only just beginning.
Hyatt brought this to the state’s Environmental Review Advisory Council meeting Wednesday. He shared that there are about 1,800 turbines in the state requiring around 5,000 blades, each of which needs to be replaced every ten years.
We first shared this issue with you after a landfill fire in October at D.B. Waste north of Bismarck, the only landfill in the state currently taking these blades.
Hyatt says a few other landfills could as well.
“We do likely have the capacity to handle waste blades from North Dakota for the foreseeable future,” he presented. “However, the department feels it would be really useful to develop some sort of end of life strategy for these blades. Again, to get out in front of it, before it becomes a big issue.”
Hyatt listed out several possible solutions, from burning the blades for energy (something that may have negative environmental impacts), to grinding them down to use in cement or concrete.
This will continue to be a discussion until one or more solutions are met in the coming years.