New Wyoming law allows wind turbine blades in coal mine pits


A new law in Wyoming allows wind energy companies to dispose of old wind turbine blades in former coal mine pits. The decommissioned wind turbine blades can be used as backfill material in reclaiming surface coal mine sites.

But the Casper Star-Tribune reports first the state needs to set the rules.

Wyoming environmental regulators gathered input on draft rules related to the new law with the Land Quality Division Advisory Board on Thursday. The public and industry representatives had the opportunity to weigh in.

Back in March, the Wyoming Legislature passed House Bill 129, extending the option to companies to repurpose retired wind blades when reclaiming surface coal mines.

The blades, which typically make up about 10% of a wind turbine’s total material, are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is a tricky material that can’t be recycled or easily repurposed. And as utility companies look to replace aging wind turbines, the machines’ blades are being buried in stacks at a handful of landfills around the country, including in the Casper Regional Landfill.

Soon coal mines could be another disposal option.

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said he supported the solution.

“This is a good idea and it’s forward thinking,” Deti told the board. “It’s an opportunity … Like any energy industry, wind produces waste. It’s a time for the mining industry to be a part of the solution of how to dispose of that waste.”

 Under recent draft rules, compiled by Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, companies wishing to take advantage of disposing wind waste in coal mines would have to follow several rules.

For one, only decommissioned wind blades and towers made from fiberglass or carbon fiber composite material can be used as backfill material. (Roughly 90 percent of all wind turbine material is recyclable because much of the machine is composed of steel, copper or other electronic materials).

Representatives of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowners group, said they wanted to ensure reclamation obligations, as required under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act, were still properly upheld. The group did not want the old mine sites to suddenly become a landfills, which could affect groundwater or land stability, they said.

Source: Casper Star-Tribune