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Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Cost Analysis of Repurposing Decommissioned Wind Turbine Blades as High-Voltage Transmission Poles

by Yulizza Henao-barragan, Emily Grubert, Matthew Korey, Lawrence Bank, Russell Gentry
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management
Publication Date
Page Numbers
2 to 15

Wind energy is widely deployed and will likely grow in service of reducing the world’s dependency on fossil fuels. The first generation of wind turbines are now coming to the end of their service lives, and there are limited options for the reuse or recycling of the composite materials they are made of. Current literature has verified that there is no existing recycling pathway (i.e., mechanical, chemical, thermal methods of recovery, etc.) for end-of-life materials in wind blades that can meet cost parity with landfilling in the US. However, to the authors’ knowledge there is no study to date that uncovers the cost structures associated with repurposing wind turbine blades in the US. Repurposing could offer a cost-competitive advantage through displacement of higher-value products, rather than materials or chemical constituents alone. This study implements life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle cost analysis (LCC) to assess the environmental and financial implications at each stage of repurposing wind turbine blades as the primary load-carrying elements for high-voltage transmission line structures in the United States. This case study contribution to knowledge is based on the successful management of construction waste by analyzing an application for repurposing construction demolition waste. Specifically, this study presents an environmental and financial analysis of repurposing wind turbine blades as transmission line poles. Under this case study, our results show that BladePoles have lower greenhouse gas emissions than steel poles, and we anticipate BladePoles will be less costly than steel poles. Overall emissions are most sensitive to combustion emissions, driven primarily by transportation distance and hours of required crane operations during the installation process. Compared to other evaluated recycling methods, repurposing wind blades as BladePoles has the least overall global warming potential.