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Green-Tech Fibre Insulation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Green-Insulation (Green-Tech Fibre Insulation)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-04-30

Over the last two decades the number of installed wind turbines has increased significantly, increasing the global generating capacity from 18.0 GW to 655.5 GW. Wind turbines installed 20 years ago are now reaching their design end of life (EOL) and are facing decommissioning. The decommissioning of wind turbines is the responsibility of the energy company owning the individual wind turbine or wind ‘farm’. As part of the decommissioning process, energy companies must safely dispose of large quantities of fibre reinforced plastic composite (FRP) that make up approximately 90% of a typical wind turbine blade (WTB).
To date, disposal of FRP waste from WTBs has been by means of landfill. However, Wind Energy companies are facing increased legislative pressure to reduce this through the imposition of landfill and the banning of disposal of FRP waste in landfills. Alternative routes, such as refurbishing or incineration, are neither economically nor environmentally viable as the material(s) and residues they produce are of insufficient worth to recoup the processing costs. Therefore, energy companies are facing an increasing need for a sustainable solution for the disposal/recycling of EOF WTBs.
At the same time, we are confronted with the consequences of climate changes, including rising water levels in the sewage system in many European cities. This is turn is driving the increasing problem of rats entering the lower levels of buildings and inflicting damage to residential, farm and food industry buildings and their contents (food products being a major problem) and spreading diseases. It is estimated that the annual global cost of rodent damage and disease exceeds €23 billion.

We have a developed a mechanical process for recycling end of life (EOL) Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) composite materials used in applications such as wind turbine blades (WTB) which otherwise would be disposed of in landfill. Approximately 90% of FRP consists of glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) with the remainder being carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). Unlike alternative solutions our process is cost effective and recycles all the FRP material into a material, RRI-20, that can be used for thermal insulation and acoustic barrier applications.
Our process consists of the following steps:

1) EOL WTB blades are decommissioned and cut into large pieces at the wind farm for ease of road transport.
2) Metallic parts are separated for separate recycling.
3) The FRP waste is shredded to form granulates in a specially developed shredding and milling process. Any dust produced and other shapes and sizes of granulate are then removed in sieving/separation process.
4) In a specially developed process - with or without adding a binder - we pack/form the loose granulate to form a porous material as plates/slabs that optimizes its acoustic and/or thermal insulation properties.
5) Our FRP granulate (RRI-20) can be used on its own as an insulation and can be recycled again once th eapplication has reached its end of life.
The Green Insulation SME Instrument Phase 1 undertook activities to confirm the technical, commercial and financial feasibility of our process for recycling waste fibre reinforced plastic composite material (FRP) from end-of-life (EOL) wind turbine blades (WTB) into a thermal and acoustic insulation material (RRI-20).
The project sought to describe the intended market for providing recycling services for wind turbine operators and for RRI-20 produced by our process, evaluate the competitive landscape to identify competing recycling processes and insulation materials and the companies behind and identifying potential stakeholders and partners need for the commercial launch of process and material.
The market for recycling services was estimated based on projections for the amount of FRP that will be generated from EOL WTBs in home market, Denmark and in Europe, USA and China. This data was used as the basis for revising a business plan for launching our process as a recycling service. The European and global markets for thermal and acoustic insulation materials were investigated to identify on which specific applications we should target RRI-20.
We entered in to dialogues with key stakeholders in the wind energy sector, building/construction and public bodies who are potential users of our services and material in the form of noise barriers. We found tremendous interest from both potential customers in the European wind energy sector, but also academic institutions and government bodies interested in environmental issues and a green economy and the national press in Denmark and Germany.
Further, the Phase I comprised defining the technical maturation steps needed automate our recycling process to improve throughput, cost efficiency and operator safety, and the external partners needed to help us implement the technology maturation steps as part of a follow on EIC Accelerator project.
The Phase I finally sought to define the technical maturation steps needed to confirm that RRI-20 has potential as a barrier material. RRI-20 insulation material was independently tested by the University of Copenhagen to establish the potential as a barrier material.
The results of the Feasibility Study confirmed our uniqueness and the technical lead that we already have over the competition in the FRP recycling sector. We were able to identify technical improvements in our current process that would improve its overall efficiency in terms of processing capacity and material losses.
We obtained the following key results during the Feasibility Study:
- The amount of FRP generated globally each year from EOL WTBs will continually increase from 50 kt of FRP waste in 2020 to 2 Mt in 2050.
- The charges for waste handling and depositing blades in landfill ranges between €200-250 per tonne in northern Europe, and we will be able to offer a recycling service to wind energy companies at a 25-30% reduced price for each country.
- Our process can be automated to improve throughput and further decreasing operating costs. Our current prototype production can be increased in processing capacity from 60 tonnes/ year to 200 tonnes/ year.
- Improvement to the process can be made to improve operator safety by avoiding handling of the RRI-20 and reducing their exposure to machinery noise.
- PVB recycled from waste front wind shields is an alternative to PVAc as binder for producing RRI-20 plates and will result in them being made from 100% recycled material.
- Pilot testing by Copenhagen University indicates that RRI-20 has a high potential as a barrier material.
- We can enhance the value RRI-20 by promoting its barrier properties.
- No competing product to RRI-20 is promoted as barrier material, providing us with an additional unique selling point in addition to its better mechanical properties and that it is made from recycled material.
- RRI-20 will be able to compete on price against existing solutions from much larger companies than ourselves as our raw material is effectively free.
- The thermal and mechanical properties of RRI-20 will need to be independently assessed by a notified body for it to obtain CE marking.