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A groundbreaking recycling center in Fairfax is set to revolutionize the disposal of decommissioned wind turbine blades and represent a significant step toward sustainability. REGEN Fiber, owned by Alliant Energy subsidiary Travero, celebrated its opening with a mission to keep waste out of landfills and produce materials for building reinforcement.

Travero President Lisha Coffey stressed that recycling wind turbine blades has been a long-standing challenge due to their size and complex composition of wood, foam, metals and epoxy-based fiberglass. However, REGEN Fiber has solved the problem by using a mechanical process without chemicals or heat and can process up to 12 tons of material per hour.

How is it recycled?

Upon arrival at the facility, decommissioned blades, already shredded into sizeable pieces, are further broken down in a series of mills and drums using a proprietary process. The details of this process are kept strictly confidential, and guests must leave their cell phones behind to maintain the secrecy of the technology.

Using different grids, the materials are sorted into different sizes tailored to the respective applications, ensuring versatile use. Safety measures are a top priority. Systems have been installed to suppress sparks and prevent the release of harmful fiberglass particles into the air to protect the well-being of employees.

The facility goes beyond the usual

The plant goes a step further and captures dust, a byproduct that could potentially be sold along with other products to improve the performance of concrete, mortar or asphalt. Jeff Woods, Travero’s business development director, pointed to promising early studies showing that the fibers derived from wind turbine blades strengthen concrete while reducing cracking and shrinkage.

Representatives of the Iowa Department of Transportation expressed interest in incorporating the product into future road construction projects, but would like to hear more details about ongoing research. Since wind turbine blades typically last about 20 years, Alliant Energy, the parent company of Travero and REGEN Energy, is preparing to permanently retire them.

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While Alliant’s wind farms in Iowa are still operational, spokesman Morgan Hawk emphasized that REGEN Fiber is a recycling solution of the future. Fairfax Mayor Jo Ann Beer echoed this sentiment, expressing excitement about the economic and sustainable opportunities that Travero and REGEN Fiber provide in the city.

Are wind turbines 100% recyclable?

Traditionally difficult to recycle due to its non-biodegradable nature, fiberglass is currently undergoing a transformation from waste to resource. Instead of rotting in landfills or being incinerated, innovative solutions are emerging for the reuse of wind turbine blades, leading to a sustainable revolution in construction practices.

Engineers and scientists are developing new ways to incorporate fiberglass into cement production, an important part of everyday construction projects. In addition, entire turbine blades are finding new life as structural elements, serving a variety of purposes, from bike sheds in Denmark to noise barriers on US highways.

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