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IRT Jules Verne launches ZEBRA project to develop 100% recyclable wind turbine blades

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The ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) project, led by IRT Jules Verne, brings together industrial companies and technical centers (Arkema, CANOE, ENGIE, Suez, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning) to illustrate, on a full scale, the technical, economic and environmental importance of thermoplastic wind turbine blades, with an eco-design approach to facilitate recycling.

The project has been launched for a period of 42 months with a budget of €18.5 million.

In order to accelerate the transition of the wind power industry to a circular economy for wind turbine blades, the ZEBRA project establishes a strategic consortium representing a full value chain: from the development of materials to the production of blades, to the operation of wind turbines and decommissioning, and finally the recycling of the decommissioned blade material.

Arkema has developed Elium, a thermoplastic resin well known for its recyclable properties by depolymerisation or dissolution. This resin will be used for the ZEBRA project.

The project will benefit from CANOE’s expertise in polymer formulation, carbon fiber development and polymer recycling. CANOE has recently developed a highly innovative process for the recycling of fiber-reinforced acrylic composite materials by dissolution, providing high added value for the recovery of both separate recycled methyl methacrylate monomers and recycled fibres.

ENGIE is a world-class wind farm operator with 8.5 GW under management and a French leader in the wind industry with more than 2.6 GW of installed capacity. Its aim is to accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, in particular through the sustainable development of renewable technologies.

LM Wind Power is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of wind turbine blades, with more than 228,000 blades produced since 1978. The Cherbourg plant associated with the ZEBRA project produced the largest blade ever produced at a length of 107 meters.

Owens Corning is one of the world’s leading manufacturers in the field of glass fiber and composite elements and the inventor of the patented High Modulus Glass technology that has created a step-change performance in the wind industry over the last decade.

SUEZ, which helps cities and industries manage their resources intelligently and sustainably, brings together its expertise in the eco-design of materials used and in the best recycling techniques.

Within the framework of the ZEBRA project, LM Wind Power will design, process and manufacture two prototype blades using Arkema’s Elium resin to test and validate the behavior of the composite material and its feasibility for industrial production.

At the same time, the ZEBRA project partners will focus on developing and optimizing the manufacturing process by automating, reducing energy consumption and production waste.

Project partners will then explore methods for recycling materials used in prototype blades into new products.

“Demonstrating a circular approach to wind turbine blades throughout their lifetime requires mobilizing a strategic consortium covering the whole value chain to guarantee valuable and precise industrial data and achievements. The ZEBRA project is a great opportunity to join together Arkema, CANOE, ENGIE, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning and Suez who are key leaders in the wind energy sector. We look forward to carrying out constructive work altogether to improve wind energy performance and efficiency.”

Céline Largeau, ZEBRA project Manager, IRT Jules Verne.

“As a key player in the transition to affordable, renewable energy sources across the world, the wind power industry works actively to develop new materials with higher performance, longer lifespan and recyclable properties. Using Elium® resin, combined with design, manufacturing and recycling process optimization, constitutes an opportunity to reduce cost, production time and environmental impact of wind turbine blades. We are thrilled to be a launching partner for a truly recyclable blade for future wind turbines, leading the way to a sustainable world that works for generations to come.”

Torben K. Jacobsen, senior director advanced technology systems, LM Wind Power.
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