The renewable energy craze has seen a drastic upward trend since the mid-2010s. A growing knowledge of potentially adverse environmental outcomes coupled with emerging technology has created a significant shift toward sustainability measures.
While implementation is slow, the measures are a step in the right direction. Further, the slow implementation ensures time to troubleshoot, discover discrepancies, and mitigate risks.
The Afterlife of Turbine Blades
Wind energy implementation has seen a surge in the USA since the 2010s, with installations tripling throughout the country. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States houses one of the "largest and fastest-growing wind markets in the world."
The country gains roughly 12% of its energy usage from renewables. Of that percentage, wind energy accounts for 26%, just second to biomass as the most implemented renewable energy type in the nation.
In European countries such as Denmark, these numbers are even more impressive, with wind energy covering 47.2% of the country's energy consumption.
Though they are most commonly installed on flat terrain, wind turbines can be implemented on buildings or even on ocean surfaces. This versatility allows for more significant implementation numbers and, in some cases, more energy generated.
While wind energy remains at an overall net positive, a central drawback worth noting is the lack of widespread recyclability of the turbine blades. A wind turbine's average lifespan is up to 20 years. Around 85% can be recycled with relative ease.
The result is a growth of individuals seeking novel ways to recycle or repurpose blades.
From Renewable Energy to Bike Storage
A Danish man has decided to embark on his own journey to repurpose a turbine blade in a way that could be useful for his community.
Residing in the small town of Aalborg, Denmark, a local Port of Aalborg worker has created a unique and inspiring bike shelter from old wind turbine blades.
Brian D. Rasmussen said he was inspired to make the shelter after spotting a bike storage unit in New York that resembled a spent turbine.
This November, Rasmussen saw his idea pay off. He completed the project, now a fully functioning bike storage overhang.
Rasmussen didn't have any model instructions or fundamental blade design concepts, but he does have a civil engineering degree.
"I made a model at home over the weekend from cardboard and wood, and then I started cutting it to find out how to get a stable structure out of it. Because as soon as you start cutting a hole in a pipe, it becomes very lively," he said.
Rasmussen outsourced help with the structural components from Brunø Stål, a local blacksmith.
"Instead of chopping a wing into small pieces and using it for fuel, you might as well use it for something else. It is both strong and almost indestructible — and I actually think it is quite beautiful," he later states.
A Country of Bikes
Those who grew up in rural or metropolitan areas lacking bike-friendly lanes, you might not realize the rich bicycle cultures in other parts of the world.
In Demark, bikers rule the streets. With copious biker-friendly lanes and a culture valuing the outdoors, the country has gained the reputation of being one of the world's most bike-friendly nations.
An estimated 90% of Danish citizens own a bike, and new infrastructure has been put in place to accommodate this cultural norm, including the notable cycle superhighway. Bike stations are in high demand, especially in more rural towns.
Rasmussen's concept to convert older turbine blades into these in-demand bike stations helps provide his community with more options for bike storage while creating an excellent end-of-life use for wind blades, inspiring others to think outside of the box.