A claim has been circulating on social media platforms falsely asserting that the rotor blades from a wind turbine in Vasa, Finland weighed 2 tonnes less after 10 years of operation. This loss, the claim implies, results from the release of microplastics due to wear and tear by the wind, eventually amounting to 6000 kg of dispersed microplastics over a 30-year lifespan of a wind turbine.
However, fact-checking website Faktisk.no investigated this assertion and found it to be inaccurate:
- The first wind turbine built in Vasa was established in 2012 and its rotor blades have never been taken down or weighed.
- Research in Norway indicates that one wind turbine emits around 200 grams of microplastics annually. There is no evidence to suggest Finnish wind turbines are inferior to their Norwegian counterparts.
- The claim, shared on Facebook and reposted on other platforms, has been traced back to anti-wind power activists, and a Swedish politician, Alexandra Anstrell, who in 2021 made an assertion regarding the loss of weight from wind turbine blades, without providing a source.
- Microplastic emission is caused due to wear and tear on the outermost layer of the turbine blades. The extent of wear depends on factors like wind speed, precipitation type, operational pattern, and UV radiation.
- Jens Kjær Jørgensen, a research manager at SINTEF, debunked the 2-tonne microplastic claim by detailing the actual structure and wear mechanism of the blades. According to him, a loss of 2 tonnes from erosion would render the turbine non-functional.
- There isn’t extensive research quantifying the microplastic emission from each wind turbine. However, a study conducted by NVE and the Norwegian Environment Agency found that the emission was around 200 grams per turbine per year, consistent with what turbine manufacturers have reported.
- Research Manager Jørgensen Jens Kjær from SINTEF clarified that over ten years, a turbine would emit approximately 2 kg, not tonnes, of microplastics. Over 30 years, this would amount to 6 kg, not 6000 kg.
- To achieve 6000 kg of microplastic over 30 years, emissions from at least 1000 wind turbines would be needed, assuming they never undergo any repairs.
- Finland has about 1468 wind turbines in total, with the largest facility consisting of 69 turbines.
The social media claim is far from reality. The article underlines the importance of verifying information, especially when it pertains to the environment and can influence public opinion. You can read it in its entirety (in Norwegian) right here: Feil at finsk vindturbin slipper ut tonnevis med mikroplast.