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North Dakota bill requires state approval for wind turbine blade disposal

House Bill 1090 passed the House on a 93-0 vote Tuesday; it now goes to the Senate.

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Onlookers watch one of two 20-year-old wind turbines come down south of Minot in March 2022. Basin Electric Power Cooperative decommissioned the aging towers because replacement parts and service were no longer available for the equipment.
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BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring landfills to get state approval before accepting wind turbine blades.

House Bill 1090, brought by the state Department of Environmental Quality, passed the House on a 93-0 vote Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate.

Wind turbine blades, typically made of steel, fiberglass and plastic, on average are about 200 feet long, according to the federal Energy Department.

“Across the nation, this is an issue a lot of states are struggling with is how to handle wind turbine blades when they’re at their end of life,” DEQ Solid Waste Manager Diana Trussell told the Tribune. “A lot of the first generation ones are looking to be replaced.”

There are a few landfills in North Dakota that have accepted blades, such as one oilfield special waste site, a landfill near Sawyer and another in Burleigh County -- Dakota Bluffs, according to Trussell.

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North Dakota solid waste management law encourages recycling wind turbine blades, but there aren't a lot of options available, Trussell said. If turbines can't be recycled, they could be disposed of in a North Dakota landfill with a plan approved by DEQ, under the legislation.

“Blades are long; they’re difficult to manage because of that length and size," Trussell said. "They’re very hard to crush even with the traditional equipment that our landfills will use for compaction. And in that case, they take up a lot of space.”

North Dakota landfills in the past five years have accepted only a few blades, every so often, according to Trussell. Many “aren’t seeking to take the blades because of the difficulty in handling them and the amount of space they take up,” she said.

But blade disposal is a growing issue across the country as more wind turbines age, according to Trussell.

“That’s been one question we’ve been asking, is how many (are there)? We know there could be thousands out there," she said. "Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to all come down at the same time (but) there could be the potential to have an influx from out of state, so we want to be able to handle our own plus be able (to) handle those. So everyone’s treated the same."

Wind turbine blades are considered “industrial inert waste,” Trussell said, adding that the state Solid Waste Department wants to support renewable energy while also making sure that blades are “not stacking up in the field.”

“Our goal is to work collaboratively not only with our Public Service Commission, the landfill, but also the wind industry on this. We’re all in this together,” she said.

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