Over the last two years, Rob Van Vleet has been slowly scrapping the last vestiges of Kimball, Nebraska?s first wind farm. The wind turbines are made to be sturdy, he said, but they don?t last forever ? about 20 years.
While most of a turbine can be recycled or find a second life on another wind farm, researchers estimate the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years, a figure that doesn?t include newer, taller, higher-capacity versions.
There aren?t many options to recycle or trash blades, and what options there are is expensive, partly because the U.S. wind industry is so young. It?s a waste problem that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be: a perfect solution for environmentalists looking to combat climate change, an attractive investment for companies like Budweiser and Hormel Foods and a job creator across the Midwest and Great Plains.
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