Decommissioned windmill blades
Windmill fan blades and motor housing components wait for disposal at the Casper Regional Landfill. Some 1,000 pieces from decommissioned wind turbines will be disposed of at the CRL by 2020, bringing an estimated $675,485 in new revenue to the landfill. (Photo courtesy of the Casper Regional Landfill staff)

Wind turbine blades being disposed of in Casper landfill

in Energy/News

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily 

The Casper landfill will soon be the home of more than 1,000 decommissioned wind turbine blades and motor housing units. 

According to Cindie Langston, solid waste manager for the Casper Regional Landfill, the materials will be deposited in an area of the landfill designed to hold construction and demolition material. 

CRL is one of the few landfills with the proper permits and certifications to accept the decommissioned turbine materials. 

The turbine disposal project, which started this summer, is slated to continue until the spring of 2020, bringing the CRL estimated revenue of $675,485. Such “special waste projects” bring in about $800,000 a year, which helps keep CRL rates low, Langston said.

The wind turbine components are being delivered by InStream Environmental, a company that recycles and disposes of other companies’ waste streams. The company is retrieving the blades from two different wind farm locations.

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. 

Researchers at Washington State University are looking for ways to reuse the fiberglass components of aged-out turbines, but no practical commercial applications have yet been found. There is some hope that ground up blades can be used to create building materials, among other things.

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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