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 the unrecycled materials 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 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 Wind Turbine Materials Recycling Prize also seeks to help the United States:
Adopt commercially mature recycling technologies from other industries and create synergistic collaborations.
Develop recycling technologies and processes that have not yet been applied commercially in the United States.
Enhance domestic energy security by reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign materials.
Commercialize technologies that have the potential to create well-paying jobs and grow the domestic wind energy industry.
Attract new talent and expertise to the wind energy industry and engage entities that have not previously worked with DOE.
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. 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.
The competition is open to private (for-profit and nonprofit) organizations, nonfederal government (such as state, county, tribal, and municipal) entities, academic institutions, and individuals that meet all eligibility requirements.
Please review the official rulesfor the complete application process and instructions for competing.
Follow this challenge if you want to subscribe to updates on the prize. If have any questions, please use the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly at .
Register to join the National Renewable Energy Laboratory prize administration team for an introductory webinar on Aug. 3, 2023, at 1 p.m. ET. Learn details about the prize, information on the support competitors will receive, and strategies for developing a successful submission package. Can’t make it? Don’t worry—the webinar will be recorded and posted in the “Resources” tab here on HeroX.