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Energy / Row over microplastics from wind turbines rumbles on

A DISPUTE over the amount of microplastics shed from the edges of wind turbine blades when exposed to wind and rain is continuing after a group of Norwegian campaigners claimed that recent reassurances given by SSE Renewables were undocumented and could not been verified.

Compelling evidence that risk of pollution from wind turbine blades is negligible, says Viking

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A controversy over the quantities of microplastics (paint, epoxy, and by extension highly toxic Bisphenol A or BPA) being released into the environment during the operation of wind turbines has been rumbling on locally for some weeks.

A claim made by the Turbine Group that the blades of a 4.2MW turbine could emit 62 kilos of material annually was ridiculed by the developer of the Viking Energy wind farm, which base its own calculation of 150 grams per turbine per year on a data sheet provided by manufacturer Vestas and made available through the Norwegian wind energy association NORWEA.

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A presentation to the Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group (SWEAG) earlier in December, based on data from the University of Strathclyde and NORWEA, described the Turbine Group’s findings as “flawed” and “not based on fact”.

However, one of the authors the group’s report Leading Edge erosion and pollution from wind turbine blades has now hit back by saying that making undocumented claims is “not an argument but a ruling technique”.

In a response to Shetland News Jan-Erik Weinbach referred to two Dutch case studies on material loss from wind turbines in medium rain conditions.

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Weinbach said that after a relatively short period of between 0.8 and 0.9 years the leading-edge protection of wind turbine blades needed to be maintained as epoxy and glass fibre was starting to get exposed.

He added that the wind industry was trying to ignore the topic and only approached it as a maintenance issue despite the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) warning the industry for years that they have to take the losses serious.

“The SWEAG group has to show realistic calculations based on science and empiric data,” Weinbach said.

“It’s when turbines increase in size and tip speed the problems really occur.”

The 103 turbines due to be erected on the Viking Energy site in 2023 are V117-4.2MW Vestas machines with a blade length of 57.2 metres.

A spokesperson for SSE Renewables said: “We conducted our own sense-check of both the NORWEA figure and The Turbine Group figure based on operational experience.

“The NORWEA figure quotes a maximum of 50g of material emitted per blade per year, of which this is mainly paint which is epoxy-free and non-toxic.

“Based on the SSE sense-check, this figure seems credible. The corresponding figure from the Turbine Group (41,000 per cent higher) does not.”

Industry body Scottish Renewables said it did not have “anything to comment” when asked if it was in a position to give access to reliable scientific information on the issue.

NORWEA did not respond to our request for information.

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