20 Teams Win First Phase of Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize

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 Winning Teams Submitted Creative Solutions To Boost U.S. Wind Energy Industry Sustainability

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 20 winners of the first phase of the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize. Administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the $5.1 million, two-phase competition was launched in July 2023 as part of the American-Made Challenges program. The prize aims to advance the development of a cost-effective and sustainable U.S. recycling industry for wind turbine materials.

About 85%–90% of the mass of a wind turbine is made of materials that can already be commercially recycled. This prize seeks to close the gap on the remaining 10%–15% of unrecyclable material, which is primarily carbon fiber and fiberglass (found in wind turbine blades, nacelle covers, and hub covers) and rare earth elements like neodymium and dysprosium (found in generators).

Among other benefits, establishing strong domestic recycling options for fiber-reinforced composites and rare earth elements will reduce the need to extract raw materials for wind turbine manufacturing. This can help further minimize the wind energy industry’s environmental impacts and enhance its resilience against price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions of these key materials.

In recognition of their innovative ideas to enhance wind material recycling technologies and processes, DOE selected 20 teams from 15 states as winners of the first phase of the prize, Initiate!. Each of the winning teams received $75,000 and an invitation to advance to the second phase of the prize, Accelerate!, where they will develop prototypes of their technologies. In Phase 2, up to six teams will be selected to each receive a cash prize of $500,000 and vouchers valued at $100,000 to work with DOE national laboratories.

A map of the United States with pin drops showing the location of each of the 20 winners of the first phase of the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize.
Twenty teams from across the country submitted winning solutions in the first phase of the Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize. Graphic by John Frenzl, NREL.

The Phase 1 winning teams are:

  • A New Fiber Spinning for Composite Recycling (Athens, Georgia)
  • A Novel Method for Recycling Neodymium Magnet (Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Blades for Large-Format Additive Manufacturing (Orono, Maine)
  • Chemolysis Recycling of all Turbine Blade Material (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • Circular Mechanical Recycling of Wind Turbines (Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Composite Fiber Recovery and Resin Recycling (Amherst, Maine)
  • Continuous Chemical Recycling at Ambient Pressure (Pullman, Washington)
  • Domestic Rare Earth Recovery From Wind Turbines Using ADR (Boone, Iowa)
  • Flash Composite Recycling: Turbine Blades to Silicon Carbide (Houston, Texas)
  • Hybrid Composites From Wood and Wind Turbine Blade (Denton, Texas)
  • Launching Circular Composite Infrastructure (Knoxville, Tennessee)
  • Mobile Onsite Wind Turbine Blade Shredder System (Huntington, West Virginia)
  • Mobile Wind Blade Recycling for Concrete (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
  • PulseWave Resonance Frequency Recycling Technology (Allen, Texas)
  • Rare Earth Element Production with Net-Zero Carbon Emission (West Lafayette, Indiana)
  • Recycling Wind Turbine Blades to Asphalt (Lubbock, Texas)
  • REEMAG Breakthrough Magnet Recycling (New York City, New York)
  • Resin Bonded Coatings for Concrete (Houston, Texas)
  • Re-Wind USA (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • RUTE Suntracker Footing (Portland, Oregon)

Read more about the Phase 1 winning submissions, and visit the American-Made Challenges Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize page to learn more about the timeline and structure of the prize.

Courtesy of U.S. DOE & NREL.

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