Recently, PacifiCorp upgraded an existing fleet of wind turbines near Medicine Bow in Wyoming with new technology and bigger blades, in a process known as “repowering.” The modernization of the Dunlap Wind Project will increase overall energy production and make the wind farm more efficient. But the upgrade means several old blades had to come down. Crews deinstalled the retired blades on the Dunlap Wind Project, and transported them to Carbon River’s facility in Knoxville for research purposes on Sept. 15.
As researchers search for ways to recycle wind turbine blades, the machines’ non-recyclable parts have been buried in stacks at a handful of landfills around the country, including in the Casper Regional Landfill.
While nearly 90 percent of wind turbines can typically be recycled, PacifiCorp paid the Casper landfill to dispose of its retired blades and motors. The rest of the machine is typically composed of steel, copper or other electronic materials, and can be recycled.
The sheer size of the blades, which can stretch over 100 feet long, and the potential environmental ramifications of disposing something that can’t decompose, have raised concerns among wind energy critics.
But according to a fact sheet shared by the Casper Regional Landfill, wind blades are some of the most inert and non-toxic material the landfill accepts. As of Sept. 16, the facility has disposed of 1,124 blades and has collected over $444,400 for doing so.