Wind farms are one of the most popular ecological alternatives to obtaining energy. Unfortunately, from the very beginning of their existence, they have been accompanied by controversy – from how realistically they are able to replace coal-fired power plants, and ending with the noise and vibrations they generate in the immediate vicinity. Unfortunately, in the area of ​​windmill operation there is also another, often overlooked problem – the life of the blades is limited, and after their wear you do not know what to do with them …? The Chinese company Goldwind found an interesting answer – and importantly, it involved 3D printing technology.

Flowerbeds with 3D printing technology have been installed at the Goldwind headquarters, China’s first renewable energy business park. The material used for their production is recycled solid waste from used turbine blades from a wind farm in Inner Mongolia. Using printing robots, Goldwind preformed materials containing crushed blade particles, with a solid waste recycling rate of over 30%.

The technical difficulty of adding the crushed blade particles to the additive processing material is to maximize the solid waste ratio while ensuring a certain strength of the printed product. During 3D printing trials on the basis of blade waste, specialists from Goldwind conducted a series of experiments and demonstrations, constantly adjusting the proportions of the various raw materials, as well as the size and gradation of the crushed blade particles.

In the end, they managed to get a blend that met the strength requirements of the printed products, while using the maximum amount of solid waste from the turbine blades. The mechanical properties, durability and performance parameters of the finished product made of these new materials are on par with conventional construction concrete.

According to Goldwind, estimates indicate that by 2025, decommissioned Chinese turbine blades will generate 5,800 tons of solid composite waste – and by 2028 – as much as 74,000 tons. As an intelligent, environmentally friendly and efficient construction method, solid waste 3D printing, compared to traditional construction technologies, is characterized by no mold, lower labor costs, more efficient use of materials, greater design freedom, greater construction efficiency, and lower risk personnel safety, especially in the construction of structures with unique shapes.

On the other hand, as wind energy projects are largely dispersed in the most remote areas of China, the cost of transporting recyclable materials to different locations is a large part of the project. Another advantage of 3D printing based on solid waste is the possibility of integration with other construction projects around the wind farm thanks to its application possibilities. With the help of mobile 3D printing robots, solid waste from wind turbine blades can be used for local production and consumption, which lowers transport costs over long distances.

While continuing to invest in wind energy recycling, Goldwind plans to explore more innovative low carbon technologies and systematic application of solutions to accelerate the carbon neutral ecosystem.


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