A large number of rotor blades from wind turbines reaches their end of life. A team of students from the university of St. Gallen and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) embarked on the challenge to find a second life for these blades. At Milano Design Week 2019 they presented their solution.
Rotor blades from wind turbines must be replaced every twenty years. Their synthetic materials make them difficult to recycle and until today they are mostly shredded and burnt. As an ever-growing number of wind turbines reach their end of life, the German energy company RWE (https://www.group.rwe) challenged a team of seven students from the University of St. Gallen and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to find a second purpose for used rotor blades – in other words, to create new user experiences based on this unusual material.
Since October 2018, this team of students from the 2018/19 SUGAR program (https://sugar-network.org) is working on solving this challenge. The students created a platform called “bladesign” (https://www.bladesign.de) which supports and empowers creative people during every step of their design process of repurposing rotor blade material. In order to enable the creators to effectively work with rotor blade material, bladesign aims to give them the inspiration, information, references, complementary expertise and network that they need. With such collaborations, the students hope to achieve an important step towards a more sustainable future.
To test and improve the first release of their bladesign prototype, the student team initiated a collaboration with the German design studio Tarantik & Egger (https://www.tarantik-egger.com). Together with the students, the designers developed a unique furniture series made out of different parts of the outworn wind turbine rotor blades. The first items of this furtniture series (dining table, coffee table, shelf, and seats) are now available for purchase. The tables consist of a rotor blade base with a glass top, the seats of a rotor blade base with a soft leather cushion top.
Together, the student team and Tarantik & Egger, jointly presented the rotor blade furniture series and the bladesign.de website at Milano Design Week 2019, from April 8 to 14. Both, furniture and bladesign received a lot of attention. In the next five weeks, the student team incorporates this feedback into their next bladesign.de release, just to enable more success stories such as the furniture series.