Renewable Energy Equipment Recover-Reuse Program

wind turbine blades being buried

There is a growing consensus that the future of energy will involve technologies and systems that rely on wind, solar, cleaner fuels, and expansive storage capacities. These technologies and systems are not only using alternative sources of energy but also disrupting the spatial relationships of the energy supply. Solar modules can be found on residential and building rooftops to agricultural land. This transition to a new energy mix is already bringing about a change in the waste stream from the energy sector.

ISTC’s Renewable Energy Equipment Recovery-Reuse Program was initially envisioned to focus on research of recovering and recycling solar modules, and the need to provide stakeholder mobilization across the sector also experiencing a changing waste stream. The Program currently aims to include the evaluation of material waste streams emerging from wind, solar, energy storage, and electric-drive vehicle (EDV) batteries. These technologies have been identified as emerging waste concerns for the state and across the US.

Program Vision

ISTC’s outreach and technical assistance team will evaluate regional environmental and economic impacts on end-of-life (EoL) equipment, model scenarios, and develop strategies to address effective recycling and repurposing of solar modules; utility-scale wind turbine blades; and energy storage and EDV batteries at their end of useful life. This group will partner with other organizations and foster a network of stakeholders including waste management companies, recyclers, manufacturers, industry associations, state agencies, and academic institutions to fulfill this intent.

ISTC’s applied research team will lead innovations that build upon the experiences in Illinois and around the globe to improve existing and create new recovery and recycling technologies. This Program also seeks to innovate alternatives and cost‐competitive technologies for the separation and processing of recoverable materials of existing deployed and emerging renewable energy infrastructures.

The Renewable Energy Equipment Recover-Reuse Program will protect the environment, support economic development through new business channels, and aims to address environmental justice concerns in Illinois.

Program Approach

The Program aims to identify the technical, logistical, and financial mechanisms that would govern the ability of renewable energy equipment that has been damaged or reached its end of life to be recycled or recovered. Innovations within this space will not only help keep these materials out of landfills but will also create economic and new business development opportunities that will support the recovery, reuse, and recycling of these technologies globally, as well as addressing environmental justice concerns locally in Illinois.

Over the next five years, the Program aims to provide viable options for reuse and recycling through waste stream projections and innovation evaluation.

This Program aims to assist in the transformation of the EoL technologies and systems within the energy sector. Thus, this program will focus on addressing the needs for equipment and infrastructure that directly interacts with the distributed energy sector and EoL vehicle batteries.  It does not intend to address the EoL of household consumer products with renewable energy components, such as solar-powered lights, phone charging panels and batteries, etc.

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