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Ørsted Partners to Scale Circularity of Wind, Solar Technologies

The Danish clean-energy giant is working with Vestas to incorporate low-carbon steel towers and recycled turbine blades into its offshore wind farms, and Solarcycle to recycle its end-of-life solar panels.

Ørsted, Vestas embark on industry-first partnership towards net-zero wind farms

Image credit: Ørsted

Scaling offshore wind-energy production is crucial to enhancing energy security, advancing affordable energy for all, and curbing the climate crisis. Today, wind produces energy with a 99 percent lower carbon footprint than coal; but the carbon emitted during the manufacture of materials and components used in wind farms remains problematic.

Addressing this issue requires cost-efficient solutions to address the most critical decarbonization and circularity challenges in the wind industry — namely steel and blades. To address these challenges, Ørsted has partnered with turbine producer Vestas to install low-carbon steel towers and, when commercially available, blades made from recycled materials at all future joint offshore wind farms.

By committing to integrate sustainable procurement not just as a one-off but in all future offshore projects between the two companies, Ørsted is creating ongoing demand for Vestas’ low-carbon, circular solutions.

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“There’s no playing defense when it comes to climate change. And no progress without partnerships,” says Ørsted Group President and CEO Mads Nipper. “That’s why we at Ørsted are very proud to partner with Vestas to integrate and scale cutting-edge decarbonization and circularity solutions to meet future customer demands for net-zero wind farms. Together with Vestas, we’re leading the industry towards net zero; and I urge decision-makers across the globe to also take action and help drive demand for low-carbon and circular solutions within renewable energy.”

For all joint future offshore wind farms, the two companies will:

  • Procure and install a minimum of 25 percent low-carbon steel towers in joint projects — In recent years, Vestas has spearheaded cross-industrial collaboration to establish availability of low-carbon steel for wind turbine towers. With the new partnership, Ørsted and Vestas are sending a strong demand signal to the steel industry to further accelerate the scaling of cost-competitive decarbonized steel for offshore wind. By utilizing scrap steel manufactured with onsite renewable electricity, carbon emissions from heavy steel plates used in towers can be reduced by up to 70 percent.

  • Scale blade-recycling technology and procure blades made from recycled materials — Vestas and its partners in the CETEC project have pioneered the first solution to break down composite materials in both existing and future epoxy-based blades and use the recovered epoxy resin for new blades. This addresses the industry’s biggest circularity challenge — namely, the many blades today that need to be recycled at their end-of-life. Vestas is currently scaling up the circular recycling value chain together with its partners Olin and Stena Recycling. When ready for commercial manufacturing, Ørsted will procure wind turbines blades made from recycled materials from Vestas to further accelerate the scaling of the technology.

Ørsted and Vestas have been working to lead the renewable-energy industry towards a sustainable build-out of wind energy while increasing scale and reducing costs. Ørsted and Vestas were the first renewable energy developer and manufacturer, respectively, to have validated 1.5ºC-aligned science-based targets for decarbonization of the entire value chain; and both companies have implemented industry-leading supplier decarbonization and engagement programs. They are also committed to solving the industry’s biggest circularity challenge – ending landfilling of blades – making the companies natural partners to take the next steps together towards net-zero wind farms.

“The energy transition requires unprecedented scale and pace, and we need strong partnerships between leading companies and industries to succeed,” says Vestas CEO Henrik Andersen. “We are excited to partner with Ørsted to expedite the deployment of our cutting-edge, circular blade-recycling technology and foster the demand for low-carbon steel in the wind industry's supply chain. This partnership is a leap forward for developing circular wind power projects and sends a powerful message that commercial agreements and collaboration are vital in our urgent fight against the climate crisis.”

Apart from their commitments on low-carbon steel towers and blade recycling, Vestas and Ørsted have also pledged to explore other areas of collaboration — including ensuring a build-out of renewable energy in balance with nature. Ørsted has similar partnerships with WWF and researchers in Taiwan to ensure its offshore wind farms help safeguard and enhance marine biodiversity.

Ørsted commits to reuse or recycle all solar panels

Image credit: Ørsted

Ørsted has also partnered with US-based solar-recycling company Solarcycle, to process and recycle Ørsted’s end-of-life solar panels from its projects across the US — one of Ørsted’s main solar markets.

Scaling the deployment of solar energy — a key technology for the clean-energy transition and for limiting global warming — requires vast amounts of virgin materials. The mining of these materials often creates negative environmental and social impacts; and competition to secure access to them is on the rise.

To lower dependency on virgin materials, reuse and recycling of end-of-life solar panels to bring the materials back into manufacturing is essential — but so far, these efforts are limited; and landfilling of many high-value materials is still common practice.

"We want to create a world that runs entirely on green energy, and we want to do it in a sustainable way,” says Ingrid Reumert, SVP and Head of Global Stakeholder Relations at Ørsted. “Addressing the most critical waste problem of the solar industry, while mitigating social and environmental impacts in the supply chain, is essential to doing so. This is an industry-first commitment and complements our already existing ambition to reuse or recycle all wind turbine blades.”

Solarcycle’s Texas recycling facility extracts the valuable materials from panels — including metals such as silver, copper and aluminum; and materials such as glass and silicon — which the company then refines to make the next generation of newer, higher-efficiency solar panels.

“With this global solar commitment, Ørsted is leveraging its position as a leader in sustainability and renewable energy to incentivise the creation of a market for – the recycling of solar panels,” Reumert adds. “And with the Solarcycle partnership, we’re taking the first tangible steps to ensure that critical materials needed for green energy will be reused or recycled.”