Lawmaker seeks details about wind turbine waste

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The wind industry dodged another effort Thursday by a Kansas lawmaker who wanted to impose new regulations on wind turbines, a source of controversy at the Capitol in recent years.

Republican state Rep. Leo Delperdang tried unsuccessfully to amend a natural gas bill to force local governments to disclose the  amount of radioactive waste from wind turbines using neodymium and dysprosium, elements which can be found in magnets.

Delperdang’s proposal surfaced as the House utilities committee considered a bill that would keep Kansas cities and counties from restricting public access to natural gas.

The committee sent the bill to the House floor but not before a discussion about looking at the waste generated from wind turbines, which are already targeted by legislation that will be heard in the Senate next week.

Two years ago, the same committee held a series of hearings examining the possibility of imposing tougher siting guidelines for wind turbines.

Leo Delperdang

Delperdang’s proposal also would have required local governments to show how much waste was associated with maintenance of wind turbines serving a municipality.

The Wichita Republican also wanted to require local governments to show how waste from wind turbine maintenance and repair was being handled.

“I think it’s time we have an open accountability of the waste being generated by our green energy and what is happening to these blades that are ultimately cut up and buried in the ground in contact with the ground-water sources,” Delperdang said.

The bill didn’t get much support from skeptical lawmakers who wanted more information, but one legislator thought the issue warranted more discussion.

“There’s radioactivity around us all the time,” said Republican state Rep. Mark Schreiber of Emporia.

Mark Schreiber

“Just because something is radioactive doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a hazard to a person’s life. It just depends on what type it is and how strong it is.

“The potassium in bananas is radioactive as well, but it’s not in high concentrations or strength that it harms people.”

Republican state Rep. Tom Kessler of Wichita didn’t believe Delperdang’s proposal should be in the natural gas bill. But thought he issue merited more consideration.

“I think this discussion is actually probably one that we should have,” he said.

Delperdang said his proposal was about trying to encourage transparency related to sources of clean energy.

“If you’re going to perceive going to a more efficient energy source, you need to be transparent about what’s behind that energy source,” Delperdang said.

He later withdrew his amendment.

“I do ask that everyone consider the information we provided for future green technologies. It’s not always what you think.”

After Thursday’s meeting, the wind industry responded with an email to lawmakers, telling them that turbines  are made from “safe, inert materials that do not leach hazardous waste into the surrounding soil or groundwater.”

The industry said that five materials account for 98% of the mass of a typical turbine: steel, iron, fiberglass, copper, and aluminum.

Steel, which represents about 70% of the turbine mass, is 100% recyclable and among the world’s most recycled materials, the industry said.

The turbine blades are primarily made of fiberglass and similar materials, along with balsa wood, the industry said.

Kimberly Svaty represents the Advanced Power Alliance, a trade association that promotes renewable energy sources such as wind.

Svaty said wind turbines can be recycled for pedestrian bridges, playground equipment, public benches, signage, powerline structures, and highway sound barriers.

Kansas, she said, is testing blades as bridges in three locations.

“The industry is a sustainable industry and strongly stands by that,” Svaty said.

“We don’t know of any radioactive material that is included in a wind generator and turbine,” she said.