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Argus Leader: Sioux Falls Landfill Tightens Rules After Iowa Dumps Dozens of Wind Turbine Blades

Last week I wrote about how decommissioning wind turbines in Germany could cost hundreds of millions of Euros more than previously planned and overwhelm Germany’s capacity to dispose of non-recyclable wind turbine blades.

Today, a reader brought it to my attention that local leaders in Sioux Falls, South Dakota have made changes that will prohibit wind companies from disposing of their turbine blades in the local landfill unless they take more steps to reduce the amount of landfill space these massive blades  consume. According to the Argus Leader:

“Iowa wind-farms brought dozens of their old turbine blades to the Sioux Falls dump this summer.

But City Hall says it won’t take anymore unless owners take more steps to make the massive fiberglass pieces less space consuming.

The wind energy industry isn’t immune to cyclical replacement, with turbine blades needing to be replaced after a decade or two in use. That has wind energy producers looking for places to accept the blades on their turbines that need to be replaced.

For at least two wind-farms in northern Iowa, they’ve found the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill to be a suitable facility to take its aged-out turbine blades.

This year, 101 turbine blades have been trucked to the city dump. But with each one spanning 120 feet long, that’s caused officials with the landfill and the Sioux Falls Public Works Department to study the long-term effect that type of refuse could have on the dump.

Public Works Director Mark Cotter couldn’t say why the Iowa wind-farms is choosing to truck its blades to Sioux Falls, whether it’s rates or regulatory climate. But he told the Argus Leader Tuesday the blades accepted to date have come in three pieces, but they still require a lot of labor to get them ready to be placed in the ground.

The out-of-region rate is $64 a ton, and a typical blade weighs between 14 and 19 tons.

That’s because a portion of each blade is hollow on the inside, requiring landfill crews to compact them by crushing them beneath the weight of 120,000-pound trucks.

Still, it’s a process that hasn’t proven cost effective, even though the out-of-region price for bringing waste to the landfill is nearly double what locals pay.

“We can’t take any more unless they process them before bringing them to us,” Cotter said. “We’re using too many resources unloading them, driving over them a couple times and working them into the ground.”

Wind energy companies considering Sioux Falls for their old blades will now be required to break them down into pieces no larger than three feet in length. Cotter said that can be done through a grinding or sheering process.

However, Cotter said a few blades accepted at the site to date have been set aside in order to be used in a pilot to determine feasibility for sheering blades on site, the impact on air space at the landfill and if pricing for accepting them should be changed.

“You have to do a certain amount of handling them to understand what your costs are so we can make those decisions,” he said.”

We already know that Xcel believes it could cost between $300,000 to $532,000 to decommission each turbine. I wonder if this estimate accounts for crushing and shipping the turbine blades so they don’t cause local landfills to overflow.

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