A Wyoming landfill is burying massive fiberglass wind turbine blades in a huge unlined pit because they’re not recyclable, and there’s no other good use for them.
At least three wind farms in the state are scraping more than 900 old environmentally unfriendly blades that will be sawed into pieces and hauled to the Casper Regional Landfill over the next year.
Casper Solid Waste Manager Cynthia Langston told KGWN the facility is the only one in the state big enough to handle the massive blades, which are expected to take hundreds of years to degrade.
“So Casper happens to be, I think it is, the biggest landfill facility in the state of Wyoming. These blades are really big, and they take up a lot of airspace, and our unlined area is very, very large, and it’s going to last hundreds of years.”
“Ninety percent of the turbines are completely reclaimed, recycled, and reused, but here is 10 percent that is fiberglass, so those are coming to us from three different farms in the state,” she said.
Langstrom said the motor housings and other fiberglass components can be crushed, but the blades pose a different challenge because they’re up to 300 feet long.
“Our crushing equipment is not big enough to crush them,” she told NPR.
Instead, the blades are chopped into three sections and the two smaller sections are stuffed inside the third larger section before they’re all buried, according to the news site.
Rob Van Vleet works at the Kimball Wind Project in Nebraska where he explained it’s been difficult to get rid of decomissioned turbine blades, which “are kind of a dud because they have no value.”
The equipment to cut up the blades for transport, physically moving the blades to a landfill, finding a facility that can handle the job, and special permits that are often required for disposal are all factors that make getting rid of the “green energy” leftovers a laborious and expensive chore, Van Vleet said.
“If you’re a small utility or municipality and all of a sudden hundreds of blades start coming to your landfill, you don’t want to use up your capacity for your local municipal trash for wind turbine blades,” he said.
That reality is an opportunity for the Casper Regional Landfill, which will use the revenue from the special project to keep down costs for local customers, Langstrom said.
The Casper Regional Landfill is slated to make $675,485 on the deal, she said.
“So the revenue from the special projects … that go in the unlined area help with the whole cost of our facility so it keeps all of our rates low, helping with the revenue source,” Langstrom said. “So absolutely, we’re making money on it.”