Construction News

Sun April 11 2021

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Old wind turbine blades to reinforce HS2 concrete

12 Mar Bits of old plastic wind turbine blades are to be trialled for use instead of steel rebar to reinforce concrete on parts of the HS2 project.

The Skanska Costain Strabag (SCS) joint venture, building the southern section of HS2 phase one, is looking to reinforce its concrete with sections of glass fibre reinforced polymer turbine blades that have reached the end of their operational lives.

By 2023, around 15,000 wind turbine blades will have been decommissioned across the UK and EU. Until now, expired blades have either been ground down to be used as building materials or sent to waste incinerators.

The contracting JV is working with the National Composites Centre on the recycling initiative.

With the innovation at an early stage, reuse will focus on swapping steel for turbine blades in low stress structures such as temporary access roads, top sections of concrete walls and ground bearing plinths – like those on which site compounds might sit. 

Work on the proof of concept pilot is due to start in spring 2021 and, if successful, could be followed by a full roll out across SCS’s entire 26km route, from Northolt to Euston station. 

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SCS innovation manger Harrison O’Hara said: “Wind turbine blades are extremely difficult to recycle. Ideas of what to do with them after they’re taken down range from turning them into playground slides to processing them into pellets for glues and paints.

“What’s potentially so significant about this innovation is that unlike some other turbine blade recycling initiatives, which involve reprocessing, our innovation reinforces concrete with sections simply cut from the turbines – massively reducing the carbon produced in repurposing the blades.”

HS2 Ltd innovation manager Rob Cairns said: “This scheme is a brilliant example of the innovation happening on the whole HS2 project. If our world-first pilot project goes well, we could see a waste product from the energy industry becoming an essential material for the construction sector in the future.”

Graeme Jeremy, head of Construction and infrastructure at the National Composites Centre, added: “Composite materials offer huge benefits to a number of different industries, and finding new, sustainable uses for them as they are decommissioned from their first life is a challenge we’re finding solutions for all the time.”

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