Técnicas Reunidas and Reciclalia develop an excellent example of circular economy

Yann Remirez

15 Sep, 2021


All technologies have some kind of impact, greater or lesser, direct or indirect, on the environment. Even technologies designed precisely to reduce the environmental effects of economic activities are not, for the moment, immune to such consequences.

That is the bad news. But there is also good news: there are technological solutions to eliminate or minimise the impact of any technology on the environment. A project developed by Técnicas Reunidas and Reciclalia that recently won the Retina Eco Award, Sustainable Ecosystem category, created by El País and Capgemini proves it.

A growing problem

The problem is significant and growing. The first wind farms were installed 20 years ago and are now gradually reaching the end of their useful life. In the next ten years, an estimated 30,000 wind turbines will be installed in Europe alone.

If we focus more closely, according to data from the Spanish Wind Energy Association, the 1,200 wind farms installed in Spain total more than 20,000 wind turbines and will have covered almost a quarter of the country’s electricity demand by 2020. In fact, Spain ranks fifth in the world in terms of installed wind power capacity.

And what is done with the blades of wind turbines that reach the end of their useful life? They are buried in landfills, a solution that obviously does not seem the most sustainable in the long term from an environmental point of view. That is why WIndEurope, the European association of wind farm manufacturers and operators, has called for no more blades to be buried in landfills after 2025. A call that can be answered by recycling their waste.

A sustainable solution

This is where the project promoted by Técnicas Reunidas and Reciclalia, which has just won an award, comes in. The technological and industrial solution proposed by both companies addresses:

  • 01

    Obtaining clean recycled fibre from wind turbine blade waste, with treatment capacities adapted to the volumes of waste generated over the next decade.

  • 02

    The valorisation of the organic compounds present in the waste, by obtaining a pyrolysis oil suitable for industrial uses.

  • 03

    The energy optimisation of the process, minimising the resources used in the recycling operations; also minimising the CO2 emissions associated with the process.

  • 04

    The commercialisation of recycled composite materials for use in sectors such as transport (automotive, aeronautical and railway), sustainable construction and wind farms themselves, which are increasingly demanding higher performance wind turbines.

The proposed project is one of the ways that TR, together with Reciclalia, has to participate in the achievement of the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations:

Guaranteeing accessible, safe, sustainable and modern energy for all, increasing the use of renewable energies.

Investment in infrastructures such as transport and energy, among others, to foster social stability and create cities that are more resistant to climate change.

Building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.

Take urgent action to fight climate change and its impacts.

As an example, the use of recycled glass fibre in the supply of a 2MW wind turbine would avoid the production of 166t of CO2 over its lifetime, i.e. from the manufacture of the wind turbine to its decommissioning. In a way, the circularity of glass fibre reinforces the sustainability of wind energy production.

For all these reasons, the Técnicas Reunidas and Reciclalia project is an excellent example of circular economy that also reduces the environmental impact of a sector with strong current and future growth, such as wind energy, and provides efficient and more sustainable solutions for the development of other strategic sectors of our economy.

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