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Published on Wednesday, December 12 2018
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Challenge Expiration Date: February 17, 2019
The wind energy market has experienced an exponential growth in the last few decades, with thousands of wind turbines having been installed every year worldwide. Predictions indicate that the trend will go on for many more years, keeping wind energy at the forefront of renewable energy generation worldwide and helping the world to have safe, reliable, sustainable and cheap energy.
The average useful life of wind turbines is about 20 years. After this period, the mechanical and structural properties of the turbines decay and refurbishments in some cases might be necessary to extend their lifetime for a few more years, while in other cases, the wind turbines are dismantled. Whereas the biggest portion of wind turbine components are quite easy to recycle and reuse (i.e. metal parts), there is a small non-metallic portion of components that is less easy to recycle or reuse, namely the blades of the wind turbines. These are mostly made of composite materials (typically glass/carbon fibres + epoxy matrix), plus some other minor components/materials (e.g. glue and gelcoat), making this task particularly challenging.
As the first generations of wind turbine technology approach the end-of-life and must be dismantled, the need to find adequate methods to recycle and reuse the blades (and its components) gains increasing relevance and importance. Hence, Enel Green Power (EGP) is looking for the best available methods to recycle and/or reuse the materials the wind turbine blades, in order to be more and more sustainable, under a circular economy perspective.
This Challenge provides contribution to the following Sustainable Development Goals:
This Theoretical Challenge requires only a written proposal.
- Register now to start solving this Challenge! The full description challenge will be available to logged in users only. -
For questions about the challenge and your proposal you can contact EnelOpenInnovabilityChallenges@innocentive.com
During their lifetime, the use and the exposure to environmental conditions lead to the decay in wind turbine blades. At the end of the useful life (20 years) they can present:
meaning that they need to be repaired for the same function (if possible, taking into account that average wind turbines today are far bigger than the ones we had 20 years ago) or to find new uses.
A typical wind turbine blade is a structure of a large magnitude in terms of size and weight, and is mostly made of composite materials (typically glass/carbon fibres + epoxy matrix), plus some other minor components/materials (e.g. glue and gelcoat).
The sizes and weights of the blades can range roughly from 20 to 80 meters length and 4 to 20 tonnes; smaller ones will be dismantled in next years, while for bigger ones the residual useful life is still quite long.
Attached at the bottom of this page a image gives the Solver a sense for the magnitude of these structures (Wind Turbine Blade Example 1)
Enel Green Power is looking for the best – on a sustainability, effectiveness, and cost perspective – available methods to recycle and/or reuse the materials of the wind turbine blades, in order to be more and more sustainable, under a circular economy perspective.
The reuse of the blades for the same purpose (blade for wind farm, after proper treatment and assessment) is an option eligible for the Challenge and of great interest for EGP. Reuse opportunities of the materials for uses on-site at wind farm's locations (for construction or operations) are also of high interest.
Any proposed solution should address the following Solution Requirements:
The submitted proposal should include the following:
The proposal should not include any personal identifying information (name, username, company, address, phone, email, personal website, resume, etc.) or any information the Solvers may consider as their Intellectual Property they do not want to share.
Q1. What are the specifications and dimenstions of a hypothetical wind turbine blade?
Wind turbine blades installed 15-20 years ago where in the range of 20m (each, so the rotor diameter was around 40m); as of today, an average size for an onshore wind turbine blade is around 60m (Solvers should take it as an indication as there are bigger ones). Here below some approximate dimensions of the main sections. Again, they shall be intended as an indication.
Blade width/diameter @ blade root
Blade width @ max chord (20-30% of blade length, from the root)
Blade width @ tip
Less than 0,5m
Less than 1m
Solvers can then consider that blades tapers linearly from the max-width section to the tip.
Q2. What are the materials used in these blades?
The Challenge description already contains some details - composite materials (typically glass/carbon fibres + epoxy matrix), plus some other minor components/materials (e.g. glue and gelcoat).It is not possible to enter in materials percentage or further details, since every blade and wind turbine manufacturer is using materials and compositions that may differ from each other. In any case, the most relevant part to be addressed is the composite one (typically glass/carbon fiber + epoxy), that is representing roughly more than 90% of the blade weight. The rest is typically adhesive and some other minor-weight materials (also some steel inserts – that may be recycled - etc.).
Q3. What is the cost of each blade to manufacture?
The cost varies considerably from blade to blade. In any case, very roughly, please consider it in the range 50-150k€ (old and small ones – new and big ones).
This is a Theoretical Challenge which requires only a written proposal to be submitted. The Challenge award will be contingent upon theoretical evaluation of the proposal by the Seeker. The solution may combine existing components, commercially available components, and/or novel Solver solutions. Ideas leveraged from other industries with similar problems are encouraged.
In this Challenge we are accepting solution proposals in English, Spanish and Italian.
To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.
Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (CET) on February 17, 2019. Late submissions will not be considered.
After the Challenge deadline, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the Winning Solution(s). All Solvers that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions. ABOUT INNOCENTIVE InnoCentive collaborates with Enel to manage this challenge. InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.
After the Challenge deadline, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the Winning Solution(s). All Solvers that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions.
InnoCentive collaborates with Enel to manage this challenge.
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.