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Wind Turbine Landfill or Mass Grave? We Report, You Decide

Last week pictures surfaced of a landfill in Wyoming being filled with something you may not have imagined: wind turbine blades.

It turns out that the fiberglass wind turbine blades are not recyclable, and the waste disposal site located near Casper, Wyoming will soon be the final resting place of more than 1,000 decommissioned wind turbine blades and motor housing units.

According to the Cowboy State Daily:

Each turbine blade will need between 30 and 44.8 cubic yards of landfill space, using a total of 448,000 cubic yards of the 2.6 million yards set aside for construction and demolition material. The components are made of a fiberglass material that is one of the most inert, non-toxic materials accepted at CRL, Langston said.

The average lifespan of a wind turbine is 20 to 25 years, and wind farms repurpose and recycle 90 percent of the materials in a wind turbine unit. The only materials not recycled are the fiberglass blades and motor housings. Nationwide, there are nearly 50,000 wind turbines, with 2,700 being decommissioned since the energy boom of the 1970s.

It is relatively easy to recycle the steel and copper in wind turbines, but the number of turbine blades in need of disposal will only grow in the near future, as Bloomberg New Energy Finance is expecting up to 2 gigawatts worth of turbines to be refitted this year and next, there could be heaps more headed for dumps.

The aging wind fleet also poses questions of who will pay to take down the turbines and reclaim the land they stood on? To prevent acres of abandoned and decaying wind farms, Wyoming laws require companies provide bonds to cover the cost of decommissioning and disposal of turbines once they are taken out of service or abandoned.

 

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