There’s nothing to burn. No ore to mine. No coal trains snaking from Wyoming to Midwest power plants. But wind power has its own pollution problem looming.Last year, one third of new electric capacity in the U.S.
While wind power looks self-contained--a field of towers, white fiberglass rotors, and the breeze--the massive fiberglass and carbon-composite blades eventually have to be decommissioned and replaced. Mechanical engineering Christopher Niezrecki of the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Wind Energy Research Group estimates the U.S. will have as many as 170,000 wind turbines by 2030 (about 20% of the country’s installed capacity) translating into more than 34,000 trashed blades per year; globally, the figure may be as many as 170,000. Since each blade can stretch the length of a football field and weigh 18 tons, that’s a lot of unplanned waste.