LEIGH PATERSON: More and
more new wind turbines are going up to meet the
country’s renewable energy needs. But what happens
in a few decades when some of those
turbines reach the end of their working lives? It’s a big question that
Xcel Energy faces today. Xcel operates the
Ponnequin Wind Farm on the Colorado-Wyoming
border, and it’s one of the first
wind farms in the US that’s aged out of
its useful life. Wind farms are, at the
end of the day, equipment. And equipment wears
out over time. By April 2017, our intention
is to return the site to its original appearance. LEIGH PATERSON: These 44
turbines are 20 years old. New wind technologies dwarf
the Ponnequin Wind Farm, both in size and capacity. The Ponnequin’s
silent giants will be brought down with a bang. MIKE: To take out
a wind turbine, we would prepare these
for explosive demolition. LEIGH PATERSON: Mike Marcheschi is a demolition contractor. And they’d all get laid
down on the ground, where we could come in with heavy
excavators with shears to size them up. LEIGH PATERSON: Over the
next several decades, tens of thousands of these giant
structures will be retired. MIKE: The trash, which is going
to be plastics, fiberglass, that type of thing will
end up getting landfilled. LEIGH PATERSON: There
are early efforts being made to find new
uses for the giant blades. At Washington State
University, researchers are cutting up and grinding
up spent turbine blades. They’re experimenting
with recycling the fiberglass
composite material to make decking materials
and flooring tiles, but this is just research,
not industry mainstream by any means. So for the 150-foot long
Ponnequin turbine blades, they’ll likely all end
up here in the landfill. And if we don’t solve the
reuse and recycle puzzle for these massive
blades, tens of thousands more face the same
fate in coming years. For Inside Energy,
I’m Leigh Paterson.