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Kids playground built from discarded wind turbine parts (2017) (lifeandsoulmagazine.com)
72 points by fludlight 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments





Aren't wind turbine blades made of generally annoying/nasty stuff such as various interesting epoxy components and glass fiber? I've seen how sick working with manufacturing can make people, so I'm not sure I'd want kids exposed, since they'll crawl around on them and touch them, likely wearing the material down and releasing small particles that may get into the skin or airways.

An NPR article on the topic: "Unfurling The Waste Problem Caused By Wind Energy"

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/10/759376113/unfurling-the-waste...

"...Ninety percent of a turbine's parts can be recycled or sold, according to Van Vleet, but the blades, made of a tough but pliable mix of resin and fiberglass — similar to what spaceship parts are made from — are a different story.

'The blades are kind of a dud because they have no value,' he said.

Decommissioned blades are also notoriously difficult and expensive to transport. They can be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet long and need to be cut up onsite before getting trucked away on specialized equipment — which costs money — to the landfill. ..."


In that case using them for playground and similar projects sounds like a brilliant solution.

Airplane Park in San Francisco used to be a literal airplane. It was a F-8 Crusader jet with its guts scooped out.

https://sfrecpark.org/project/larsen-park-jet-playground/


Submarine park featuring a decommissioned submarine:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holbrook-submarine


Maybe we should start (or better return to) making the blades from wood.

https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2019/06/wooden-wind-turbines...


I know that material fatigues over time, but 225,000 tons of turbine blades annually sounds excessive. Why so much waste?

Couldn't older ones be retro-fitted with newer rotating internal components to extend the life of the structural components and the blades? I just can't see such a massive structure being discarded just to be replaced with a unit which is probably very similar.


I posted separately a link to a YouTube profile of the architect. He mentions later in the video that the blades are taken out of service when hairline cracks are found in them.

I was curious how the playground looked in use, a question well-answered by this profile discussing the project that I found on YouTube: https://youtu.be/V4C4RQcyrSo

Wish we could do something similar with solar cells. Seems to me, that some sections could be used to make streamlined coffins -- so you can slip into the afterlife a little faster. Maybe a blade tip could be placed on a turret of a ship, so as to generate a little extra push, in much the same way sails did a century ago. I suppose that such material would make excellent berm material when constructing levees. The list goes on...

Solar cells strike me as highly recycleable. https://www.veolia.com/en/newsroom/news/recycling-photovolta...

... cisterns; vessels to hold petrochemicals at plants; artificial reef substrate (check with an environmental scientist first); roofs at out-door shelters (as may be found at highway rest-stops); plinths for a Neo-antiquity Stonehenge; I could go on...

It looks nice and I can appreciate the story, but saying « discarded » makes it sound like it has no value, but Scrap structural steel definitely does.

> designed the Wikado Playground to address the issue of saving out-of-service wind turbines from landfill.

Nononono.


Wind turbine blades, such as those used on this playground, are typically not recycled and have little scrap value. Their structure is primarily of fiberglass, some with carbon fiber, often with foam and balsa wood as well. There is some metal, typically in the lightning protection system (copper and aluminum) and blade root (blade studs, covers, possibly a steel blade root insert), but they do not comprise the majority of the structure. On decommissioning it is relatively common for blades to be shredded and landfilled.

I've just read some book proposing to make the blades out of natural fiber materials such as bamboo. There seems to be quite a lot of research going on.

Edit: The article does indeed appear to talk about composite materials.

> According to research, there will be, at current growth rates, 225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material produced annually worldwide


> > According to research, there will be, at current growth rates, 225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material produced annually worldwide

My heart hurts when I re-read this as "225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material landfilled anually worldwide N years from now", N being the average lifetime of a wind turbine.


Humanity currently dumps about 2 billion tonnes of waste every year[1]. That's ten thousand times as much as this (projected) figure. And we are currently producing about 400 million tonnes of plastic per year[2], which is itself about two thousand times as much.

There is no particular reason to expect all of decommissioned wind turbine waste to get shredded into landfill. The core of modern blades is mainly balsawood[3], metal parts should be recyclable, fiberglass is inert and probably recyclable. The small fraction of epoxy and coatings should certainly be processed responsibly.

[1] http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/shocking_environmenta...

[2] https://www.darrinqualman.com/global-plastics-production/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpRudTUIyfM


What's the "uranium fuel equivalent", 1 ton of still mostly good fuel that could be reprocessed but that's more expensive than getting fresh fuel?

The fuel rods themselves are only a part of the total waste. After about 50 years you also have to effectively landfill the entire reactor - securely away from the water table. And meanwhile there's a constant stream of process chemicals and disposable protective gear.

It looks like current "high level waste" (fuel rods) production is about 30,000 tonnes a year.


Most of the "entire reactor" is not radioactive at all, and you can trash it using regular methods.

Is that better or worse than the X tones of carbon emissions diverted?

Will any of the composite materials breakdown over time and leach in to water supplies?


For the problem of global warming itself, given positive EROI, it's better to have those turbines and emit that less carbon. But for the problem of not running out of resources, it may be worse.

In a way, under existing economic regime you can pretty much consider renewables as non-renewable energy sources. A wind turbine doesn't burn non-renewable fuel, but it does "burn" non-renewable construction materials. Of course, climate change is the more pressing problem now, but I'm not 100% sure how much more pressing, given the exponents involved in all of this.

Most of all, just thinking about how even renewable energy is entirely embedded in our process of transforming raw resources into waste (with a little bit of economic value extracted in the middle) just breaks my heart.


Most of all, just thinking about how even renewable energy is entirely embedded in our process of transforming raw resources into waste (with a little bit of economic value extracted in the middle)...

This is really just the second law of thermodynamics making its presence felt (not to imply that we're anywhere near close to some kind of entropic limit in the construction of wind turbines, but as a rule of thumb: in the process of doing useful work, things degrade).


From what I've heard about work for the next IPCC report, the issue is much more pressing than thought before.

I'm not sure how far they are through quality control etc, but when a bunch of different group gets to similar results independently, you can probably assume no huge errors.


I'd say definitely better. You can probably throw them into the garbage power plants, and if not it's still a much more manageable problem. More tangible too, which is one of the big tragedies of carbon emissions.

"Unfurling The Waste Problem Caused By Wind Energy"

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/10/759376113/unfurling-the-waste...


The article mentions "composite material". From the pictures it is hard to say whether it is fiberglass/polyester, carbon fiber/epoxy or what; but either way these materials are much harder to recycle than steel.

Can you please share more about what value scrap structural steel has that you see?

Most metals are relatively easily recycled. Therefore scrap metal has value as feedstock for production of new equipment. A modern wind turbine tower might have 150 metric tons of steel in it, which absolutely makes sense to recycle.

floatingatoll meant in the article.

That answer was the path of answer I hoped to hear, actually.



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