News Release from National Renewable Energy Laboratory


Wind Industry Profile of

New Prize To Propel Wind Turbine Materials Recycling

$5.1 Million Competition Aims To Strengthen a Circular Wind Energy Economy in the United States

(Image: Joelynn Schroeder, NREL)(Image: Joelynn Schroeder, NREL)

With more than 142 gigawatts of wind power installed across the United States as of June 2023, wind energy manufacturing is accelerating to help meet the nation’s ambitious clean energy goals. The potential growth of the wind energy industry raises a critical question: How can the nation holistically consider the life cycle of a wind turbine—from deployment to decommissioning—to create a sustainable wind energy economy.

To help answer this question, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office launched the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize, a $5.1 million competition that is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges program, the prize aims to help the country develop a cost-effective and sustainable recycling industry for two high-impact categories of wind turbine materials: fiber-reinforced composites and rare earth elements.

The Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize is an American-Made Challenges competition administrated by NREL and designed to develop a sustainable and cost-effective U.S. circular wind energy economy. Graphic by Joelynn Schroeder, NREL 

About 85%–90% of the mass of a wind turbine is made of materials that can already be commercially recycled. The bulk of the unrecycled materials is composed of fiber-reinforced composites (carbon fiber and fiberglass). These materials can be found in various forms in wind turbines, including the blades and the cover for the hub that connects the blades to the wind turbine. The wind energy manufacturing industry also depends on critical minerals, such as rare earth elements (including neodymium and dysprosium), which do not currently have domestic commercial-scale recycling options. 

Prize Goals 

The Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize aims to expand the nation’s ongoing efforts to advance wind turbine materials recycling, such as NREL's thermoplastic resin research for wind turbine blades. 

The prize also seeks to promote collaboration among wind energy entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, and experts from DOE’s national laboratories, such as NREL, to accelerate the development and commercialization of wind turbine materials recycling technologies. 

Read DOE’s prize launch announcement to learn more about the goals of the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize. 

Interested in Participating?

Visit the American-Made Challenges Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize page to learn more about the timeline and structure of the prize, and register for the informational webinar hosted by NREL on Aug. 3, 2023, at 1 p.m. ET.
Learn more about NREL’s advanced manufacturing and materials wind energy research. And be sure to subscribe to NREL’s wind energy newsletter for more news like this.

Press Office
NREL, wind turbine, recycling, circular economy, USA, decomissioning, deployment, turbine, wind farm, DOE, material, component

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