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Wind power has a reputation for being a clean energy source that can function with a strong and consistent breeze, but one visit to a Wyoming landfill may startle some die-hard advocates of the technology.
The environmentally unfriendly side of wind turbines can be seen at the Casper Regional Landfill, with only a bird’s-eye view showing the full scale of the technology’s impact.
According to Wyoming News Now, the landfill reached deals with three wind farms in September 2019 to begin accepting their old equipment.
“Ninety percent of the turbines are completely reclaimed, recycled and reused, but there is 10 percent that is fiberglass, so those are coming to us from three different farms in the state,” Casper’s Solid Waste Division manager, Cynthia Langston, told Wyoming News Now.
The 10 percent that can’t be recycled has to be disposed of by some other method. The blades are first cut into sections before being loaded onto transportation and hauled to the Casper landfill.
Because these fiberglass blades are too strong to be crushed, the giant pieces of trash have to be buried intact.
The scale of it all is so large that it can be seen in photos taken by mapping satellites.
Viewing the landfill on Google Maps reveals rows and rows of the fiberglass blades, only partially covered with dirt:
Because of the blades’ resilience to the elements, the discarded turbine pieces will not decompose anytime in the near future.
“The wind turbine blade will be there, ultimately, forever,” Veolia Environnement SA’s chief operating officer, Bob Cappadona, told Bloomberg, which noted that his company “is searching for better ways to deal with the massive waste.”
“Most landfills are considered a dry tomb,” Cappadona added. “The last thing we want to do is create even more environmental challenges.”
Wind energy does have its problems, but there is no denying that the technology is innovative and generally low-waste.
A turbine’s blades are turned by wind, a free and renewable resource, as a mechanism converts the rotation into clean electricity for homes, schools and hospitals.
The Department of Energy celebrates wind power, particularly the fact that “turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain, smog, or greenhouse gases.”
While the turbines themselves don’t produce much in the way of pollution, the fiberglass waste remains an ugly problem for wind power’s image.
Wind turbines don’t work in all parts of the United States, but their ability to produce cheap, renewable and domestic power is not something that can be overlooked.