BY: BROOKLYN PINHEIRO
As wind turbines come to the end of their lifespan the clean energy source faces barriers to continuing its commitment to being environmentally friendly. After 15 to 25 years in the field, wind turbines need to be replaced by newer, more efficient technology. While most of the machine can be recycled, the blades themselves can’t be due to their carbon fiber composition. This poses a problem of what to do with the estimated 50,000 tons of blade waste predicted by 2020.
The Dutch firm Superuse Studios has found a creative solution to the problem. The company works in up-cycling all kinds of previously used products to create new and beautiful architecture and design projects. It has jumped on the wind turbine issue and used the materials to enhance public spaces.
In Rotterdam municipality, the Netherlands, Superuse Studios has built ReWind, an installation of public benches made out of refurbished wind blades in Willemsplein public square. The installation is made of nine previously used blades connected by 100 per cent reused concrete blocks. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional. It can be easily dismantled to use the square for other purposes and creates an iconic look for the city’s public transportation hub.
The wind turbines have also been put to use by the studio to build Wikado playground in Oude Noorden, Rotterdam. The structure uses the interiors of the blades as towers and tunnels while the thinner pieces are used as climbing structures. The structures are connected by bridges and climbing nets to create a maze-like design for maximum fun.
The already durable material of wind turbine blades makes them great resources for building structures that will hold up against bad weather conditions. Their variety of size and shape can be used to create visually diverse installations for different public needs.
Other options for retired blades include reselling them for reuse where wind energy has yet to spread its wings. Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia are the most popular buyers with the draw of previously used turbines costing 40 per cent less than new ones. The other popular solution is to cut down the blades to manageable size to create other products such as floor tiles.
With the first generation of 1980s turbines coming to the end of their lifespan to be replaced by the bigger better ones, proper avenues for reusing the product will have to be taken in order to maintain their environmentally sustainable reputation.