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Exploring New Solutions for Wind Turbine Blades

Wind farms began popping up in the 1990s and many turbines are reaching the end of their 20-30-year useful lives now. The challenge of wind turbine blade disposal has captured attention around the world, and a team at the EERC led by Joshua Strege, Principal Process Engineer, has received State Energy Research Center funding to address the need for further research into the recycling or repurposing potential of blades in North Dakota.

Difficulties for disposal include transportation, destruction, and landfilling of decommissioned blades. Strege is hoping to fill the growing demand for novel technologies to avoid landfill disposal of retired blades by finding ways each section could be repurposed to create new, high-value products. There is added public relations pressure to find a solution for keeping a renewable energy source as green as possible.

Currently, the most common method for dealing with used wind blades in the United States is landfill disposal. In Europe, blades are crushed, then burned in cement kilns. Neither of these options is ideal: Landfill disposal is not sustainable due to the size of the blades, and much of the blade structure is poorly combustible. Blades can be resold if they are still in good working order, but this is not always an option. Because blades vary so much from section to section, the ideal solution to reusing blades will likely involve separating blades into different product streams.

“I’m interested in seeing what the different components could be repurposed as—I’m not set on one specific product at this point,” said Strege. “There’s potential for reuse in something that could use the retained strength of fiberglass, instead of trying to break it down or sending whole blades to landfills.”

North Dakota has more than 1,500 turbines, with a typical turbine able to produce up to 1.5 megawatts of energy. A single blade from one of these towers can be more than 110 ft long and weigh over 6 tons. Upgrades will soon be reaching North Dakota’s turbines, and a better solution to one of the wind industry’s biggest challenges could be coming as well. As public pressure grows to find new uses for aged blades, a recycling industry will inevitably develop at some point. Finding secondary values from blades would help offset costs for decommissioning and disposing of blades in North Dakota and could set the state ahead of the curve in developing a blade recycling infrastructure.

Core Value Award Recipients

Left to right: Kari Lindemann, Kyle Glazewski, Lonny Jacobson, Kari Suedel, Rachael Perriello
In 2019, we began awarding our employees for their amazing efforts in our five core values: to be safe, ethical, engaged, effective, and professional. We are proud to share our 2020 award recipients with you.

Be Safe: Lonny Jacobson – Principal Operations Specialist
Lonny has created a culture of safety within his team. He is constantly engaging in his team’s projects and uses his knowledge to coach others on the hazards they could face. He prioritizes resources to create a safer work environment and is actively taking steps to grow not just a “safety first” mentality but a “safety ALWAYS” mentality. 

Be Ethical: Rachael Perriello – Environment, Health, and Safety Specialist
While there are often quicker ways to finish a job, shortcuts or new avenues could create risky situations for our teams. Rachael reminds us all that we are to do the right thing, always, even if it isn’t the easiest way. She has had numerous opportunities to take shortcuts or make complications go away but has instead held herself, and her colleagues, to the highest ethical standards. 

Be Engaged: Kari Suedel – Senior Digital Media Specialist and Photographer 
Kari has infused tremendous enthusiasm into not only her group but many others. She is continuously filled with fresh ideas and better ways to share the EERC with everyone she can. She was a leader in the recent conversion of our website and has earned the respect of many of our clients through her graphic arts and media services. 

Be Effective: Kari Lindemann – Lead Research Information Associate
Kari is a leader in all efforts in proposals and reporting. She has worked countless hours after closing to ensure products make it to their destinations in perfect form. Kari is always effective and excels at her job with a great smile and attitude. Beyond her normal duties, she also leads one of our largest engagement events every year. 

Be Professional: Kyle Glazewski – Senior Analyst, Geographic Information System Team Lead
A word chosen to represent Kyle was “inspiring.” He inspires others with his integrity, interpersonal skills, respect for others, and leadership every day. These qualities are matched with consistently high-quality and timely technical results. He selflessly mentors, encourages, and advocates for employees across all teams, and strives to help others be the best professionals they can be. 

We are thankful to have such wonderful employees who do work they can be proud of every day!

EERC Welcomes Yang Yu

Dr. Yang Yu is a Research Scientist at the EERC, where he conducts laboratory analyses and interprets laboratory data to support research activities related to improved production of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in unconventional and conventional formations, and subsurface storage of CO2 and/or rich gas. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Petroleum Engineering from Texas Tech University and a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from Northeast Petroleum University, Daqing, China. Prior to his position at the EERC, Yang served as an R&D Project Specialist with Porous Materials, Inc., Ithaca, New York.

Yang’s principal areas of interest and expertise include reservoir engineering, unconventional reservoir development, EOR, and rock and fluid properties analysis. He serves as a reviewer for Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, SPE Production & Operations, the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, and Applied Nanoscience. He has authored or coauthored numerous peer-reviewed and other professional publications.

“I really enjoy the working atmosphere at the EERC; it’s like a big family. Everyone is friendly and helpful,” said Yang. “I was given an ambassador when I started, and I appreciate that they are helping me grow into my role and adapt to the new working and living environments.”

Yang heard about the EERC from a current employee and became interested in his role at the EERC when he saw the opportunity for his work to support and promote carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). “I’m excited to be in a position where I can make use of my current skills and capabilities. I also have the opportunity to keep learning and enhancing my abilities by participating in multiple projects.”

Yang grew up in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, China, which he said has a similar climate to Grand Forks, making it an easier adjustment. He enjoys spending time outdoors and activities like hiking, skating, and fishing. He also likes to get together with friends and barbeque when he can