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American-Made Challenges -- Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize
The American-Made Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize is designed to help the United States develop a cost-effective and sustainable recycling industry for two high-impact categories of wind turbine materials: fiber-reinforced composites and rare earth elements.
Wind energy deployment in the United States is projected to see significant growth to meet the nation’s decarbonization goals by 2050. As wind turbine manufacturing accelerates, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proactively considering the life cycle of wind turbines , specifically after they are eventually decommissioned.
About 85%-90% of the mass of a wind turbine is made of materials that can already be commercially recycled, the bulk of which are fiber-reinforced composites (carbon fiber and fiberglass). These materials can be found in various forms in wind turbine blades, nacelle covers, and the cover for the hub that connects the blades to the wind turbine. The wind energy manufacturing industry also depends on critical minerals, such as rare earth elements (including neodymium and dysprosium used in generators), which do not currently have domestic commercial-scale recycling options.
Developing robust, domestic recycling options for fiber-reinforced composites and rare earth elements can lessen the United States’ need to extract and process raw materials, which can, in turn, reduce damage to the environment. Additionally, recycling rare earth elements would safeguard domestic manufacturing by improving resilience to price volatility and supply chain disruption.
The $5.1 million Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize has two phases that will run from 2023 to 2024.
During the first phase, Initiate!, competitors will prepare a submission package that highlights a concept for wind material recycling focused on economic and environmental sustainability. Up to 20 winners will be selected to receive $75,000 in cash each and an invitation to compete in the second phase of the competition.
In the second phase, Accelerate!, competitors will develop submissions based around prototype demonstrations of their technologies and a plan to demonstrate the technology at full scale. In this phase, up to six teams will be selected to each receive a cash prize of $500,000 and vouchers to work with DOE national laboratories valued at $100,000.
Phase 1 Deadline: Sep. 29, 2023