Renewable energy: The upcycled wind turbines getting a second life

2023-09-07 05:34:45  • 4 mins

By Louise Cullen

BBC NI agriculture and environment correspondent

When is a wind turbine not a wind turbine?

When it's been turned into a bridge. Or street furniture. Or, in the future, possibly even a telecoms tower.

Welcome to the world of turning wind power non-recyclables into upcycled everyday objects.

Researchers led by Queen's University Belfast have been trying to find ways of repurposing the structures, also known as wings.

While wind turbines are heroes of renewable energy generation, their blades are not currently recyclable and have to be landfilled or incinerated.

By 2030, it is estimated 450 blades on the island of Ireland will be at the end of 20 to 25 years usefulness generating power - 110 of them in Northern Ireland.

The project team has proved the blades can be safely made into small bridges, suitable for greenways and culverts.

The work has also led to a spin-off business looking at street furniture and other possibilities.

"The blades are only designed for a 20-25 year lifespan," said Kenny McDonald, the technical manager for the project.

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