There’s no doubt renewable energy is playing a major role in reducing emissions and creating a more sustainable world. However, the increasing adoption of renewable energy technologies is also creating a problem of disposal of decommissioned equipment on reaching end-of-life.

A pioneer in wind power generation, Denmark today relies on wind energy to meet 40 per cent of their energy requirements. But the country is also facing a problem of discarded wind turbine blades, which typically have a lifespan of 20-25 years. As an early adopter of wind power, Denmark is dealing with the challenge of bulk disposal of these fibreglass blades. Conventional methods of disposal of this composite waste include landfill disposal, incineration and recycling.

While landfill disposal will only lead to overflow, incineration has its own environmental problems. Recycling, therefore, seems to be the sustainable way forward by repurposing the decommissioned blades into clever usable solutions.

The Re-Wind Network, one of the companies assigned by the Danish government to recycle wind turbine blades, is repurposing these giant structures into various architectural elements such as bicycle shelters and pedestrian footbridges.

The company recently installed wind turbine blades in the Danish port of Aalborg to create protective bike shelters. The characteristic wing-like shape of the blade provides a canopy, and opens up potential for creating similar shelters in urban spaces, or in architectural and structural applications.

Rotterdam in The Netherlands has a 1,200-square-metre children's playground featuring a slide tower, tunnels, ramps and slides made from decommissioned rotor blades. Wind turbine blades have also been turned into public seating and bus stops. There are also plans to create furniture from end-of-life wind turbine blades.

Image: A bike shelter repurposed from a discarded wind turbine blade (image courtesy of Chris Yelland)