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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Wind Turbine Blades Using Recycled Carbon Fibers: An Environmental Assessment

Upadhyayula, Venkata K. K.; Gadhamshetty, Venkataramana; Athanassiadis, Dimitris; Tysklind, Mats; Meng, Fanran; Pan, Qing; Cullen, Jonathan M.; Yacout, Dalia M. M.


Polymers reinforced with virgin carbon fibers (VCF) are being used to make spar caps of wind turbine (WT) blades and polymers with glass fibers (GF) to make skins of the blade components. Here, we assess the life cycle environmental performance of the hybrid blades with spar caps based on VCF and the shells and shear webs based on RCF (recycled CF) composites (RCF-hybrid). The production of the WT blades and associated reinforced polymers is assumed to occur in Sweden, with their uses and end-of-life management in the European region. The functional unit is equivalent to three blades in an offshore WT with the market incumbent blades solely based on the GF composite or the hybrid option. The RCF-hybrid blades offer 12-89% better environmental performance in nine out of 10 impact categories and 6-26% better in six out of 10 impact categories. The RCF-hybrid blades exhibit optimum environmental performance when the VCF manufacturing facilities are equipped with pollution abatement systems including regenerative thermal oxidizers to reduce ammonia and hydrogen cyanide emissions; spar caps are made using VCF epoxy composites through pultrusion and resin infusion molding, and the blade scrap is mechanically recycled at the end of life. The energy and carbon payback times for the RCF-hybrid blades were found to be 5-13% lower than those of the market incumbents.


recycled carbon fibers; wind turbine blade components; life cycle assessment; energy and carbon payback time; high-performance discontinuous fiber technology

Published in

Environmental Science and Technology
2022, volume: 56, number: 2, pages: 1267-1277

Authors' information

Upadhyayula, Krishna
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology
Upadhyayula, Krishna
Umeå University
Gadhamshetty, Venkataramana
South Dakota School Mines and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology
Tysklind, Mats
Umea University
Meng, Fanran
University of Cambridge
Pan, Qing
Cullen, Jonathan M.
University of Cambridge
Yacout, Dalia M. M. (Abdelfattah, Dalia)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

UKÄ Subject classification

Energy Engineering
Environmental Sciences

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