Windy Woes

Solving Wind Power’s Hidden Pollution Problem




The U.S. Department of Energy reports that although wind power accounts for just over 4 percent of domestic electrical generation, it comprises a third of all new electric capacity. Even with the freedom from coal or oil that wind power creates, a major component of the generating devices, the turbine blades, has its own carbon footprint that needs examining.

Some of the blades are as long as a football field, and the metal, fiberglass or carbon composites must be mined, refined, manufactured and transported, all consuming energy and creating materials that are difficult to recycle when they reach the end of their usefulness and are replaced. Christopher Niezrecki, a member of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Wind Energy Research Group, estimates the United States will have as many as 170,000 wind turbines by 2030, creating more than 34,000 discarded blades each year.

The next generation of blade material may come from natural cellulose fibers and bio-based plastics derived from soybean, linseed and other vegetable oils, instead of oil-based polymers. A $1.9 million National Science Foundation grant is funding the research.


Source: FastCoexist.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Migrating Trees

Three-quarters of American tree species have shifted to the West since 1980 due to dryer conditions in the East and changing rainfall patterns.

Plutonium Problem

To safely dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear waste dating back to the Second World War, the Department of Energy might replace a glass-log encasement plan with a cement option.

Bat Banter

Computer algorithms helped Israeli researchers decode the language of Egyptian fruit bats and discover that bats exchange information about specific problems.

Tuna Turnaround

Levels of toxic mercury in Atlantic Bluefin tuna declined 19 percent between 2004 and 2012, a drop that scientists attribute to a shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy.

Buzzing RoboBees

Harvard researchers have invented tiny robotic bees that may be able to eventually pollinate the crops that are under threat because of vanishing bee colonies.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags