Wind turbine blades taken down and directed as waste to landfill (number)
To make the most of our resources, we’re looking at wind and solar farm design, material sourcing, how to use assets for longer – and how to ensure all renewable energy assets can be reused or recycled after we decommission them.
As we work to deliver the global green energy build-out at the pace and scale demanded by science, we need to use raw materials such as steel, concrete, and aluminium. Many of these resources are already scarce and under pressure, so it’s crucial that we embrace the principles of circularity and find ways to use less, for longer – and reuse what we can, again and again.
By incorporating circular principles across our entire operating model, we work to eliminate waste, maximise the reuse and recycling of our key components and materials, and help nature to thrive.
The two main goals of our use of circularity are to ensure availability of critical raw materials, and to help ensure the green build-out happens in balance with nature by minimising the adverse environmental impacts that are related to extraction and processing of virgin resources.
What are we doing?
Our newest renewable energy assets have an average expected lifetime of 30-35 years, and up to 90 % of the total weight of the materials used to build them can be recycled. But we know we can go further. We’re working on three key areas that we as a developer believe we can best support in the widespread adoption of circularity within the renewables industry and beyond.
Designing and sourcing our way to a lower footprint: 75 % of our carbon footprint related to offshore wind assets comes from extracting and processing construction materials – with steel alone accounting for 50 % of this figure. By optimising how we design offshore wind farms, and by increasing our use of components made from recycled materials, we can reduce our reliance on virgin resources.
Optimising how we use assets and key components: The longer we keep an asset or component in operation, the less time and energy we spend decommissioning and replacing it. With that in mind, we’re improving the way we repair, reuse, and repurpose assets and components so we can extend their lifetime. For example, we’re exploring ways to give older offshore assets an extra decade of life.
Ensuring recyclability of assets upon decommissioning: We’re continuously finding new ways to recycle our renewable energy assets so we can feed in materials from old assets into the production of new assets, close the material loop, and create a circular value chain. We’re getting closer to achieving this. And though we still face some challenges with regards to solar PV modules and wind turbine blades, we’ll keep working until we find the right solution.
How are we doing?
We aim to send no wind turbine blades to landfill and to divert as much as possible of the waste we produce from disposal. In 2022, one wind turbine blade was unintentionally sent to landfill by a third-party contractor. Read on to find out how we’re working to avoid this happening in future.
Latest updates from 2022
- Across the Americas, we committed with immediate effect to reusing or recycling all solar PV modules that break down or are retired from operation. So far, we’ve recycled more than 4,000 damaged modules. This has left us with 140 metric tonnes of material that will be reused in our own facilities or donated to community solar projects.
- To lower our carbon footprint from steel, we developed a circularity road map for our offshore monopile foundations to improve design, product lifetime, and how we can reuse this energy-intensive and finite resource.
- We entered a strategic partnership with Salzgitter AG to explore the potential of recycling scrap from decommissioned wind turbines into the steel production process, an important step towards using materials from old assets directly in the production of new assets.
- We published a waste management guide and launched online and in-person training courses at all our operational sites to improve waste management.
- In 2021, we committed to never again landfill a wind turbine blade. However, in 2022, one wind turbine blade was unintentionally landfilled by a third-party contractor. We’ve since taken corrective action, including clarifying contracts on responsibility of blade waste and training Ørsted site personnel and contractors on how to comply with our ban.
In 2023, we’ll continue searching for ways to recycle solar PV modules and wind turbine blades. On a wider scale, we’ll also launch our company-wide ambition for further integration of circularity principles.
- DecomBlades, a three-year innovation project that seeks to commercialise sustainable recycling routes for wind turbine blades, carried out by ten project partners from the wind and recycling industry as well as academia
- Salzgitter AG, a strategic partnership to explore the potential of recycling scrap from decommissioned wind turbines into the steel production process
- EU Waste Framework Directive
- Global Reporting Initiative 306: Waste 2020
Accountability lies with our Chief Operating Officer. Our QHSE Committee ensures that implementation is carried out by individual business units.
- Ørsted Policy for quality, health, safety, and environment (PDF)
- Ørsted Resource management policy (PDF)
This programme contributes towards the following Sustainable Development Goal: