What happens when wind turbines reach the end of their lifetime? WindEurope’s annual “End of Life Issues and Strategies” event (EoLIS2022) showcases the latest trends in repowering, decommissioning, dismantling and recycling of wind turbines. The latest data presented at the event shows the benefits of repowering. It nearly triples the capacity of a wind farm while reducing the number of turbines by a quarter, all on the same site. It’s a win-win-win situation for energy security, public acceptance and biodiversity.
On 1-2 December the European wind industry meets in Ghent for WindEurope’s End-of-Life Issues and Strategies Seminar (EoLIS2022). The event focuses on all aspects of wind turbines reaching the end of their operational lifetime. EoLIS2022 underlines the need for Governments to adopt repowering strategies and transitional arrangements to support the lifetime extension of wind farms.
Many of Europe’s onshore wind farms are reaching the end of their operational life: 14 GW of Europe’s existing wind farms have already been running for more than 20 years and 78 GW will have been by 2030. Denmark, Spain and Portugal have the oldest wind fleets in relative terms. Their average wind turbine is more than 12 years old. Germany has the largest installed capacity which could potentially be repowered with 17 GW older than 15 years.
There are stark differences between countries in terms of repowered projects. 170 wind farms have so far been repowered in Europe, more than half of them in Germany. The Netherlands is currently repowering the most. Other countries need to step up their game: Spain, Italy and Denmark need more coherent strategies to reap the benefits of repowering.
Most wind farms reaching end of life currently opt for some form of lifetime extension, often because legislative frameworks for repowering are not in place. But experience illustrates that wind turbines should be repowered wherever possible. New data presented at EoLIS2022 shows that on average repowering reduces the number of turbines in a wind farm by a quarter while increasing the farm’s installed capacity by a factor of 2.7 and tripling its electricity output.
“Repowering is a win-win-win game. The oldest wind farms are usually on the best wind sites but have the least efficient turbines. Repowering them makes the best use of the sites. You can triple the output with 25% fewer turbines. And local communities welcome it, not least when they’ve already seen the economic benefits of having a wind farm,” says WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.
In a step aimed at accelerating the build out of wind energy, the latest meeting of Energy Ministers agreed on emergency measures to speed up the permitting of repowering projects to a maximum of six months. And the Environmental Impact Assessments now only need to consider the additional impacts compared to the original wind farm.
EoLIS2022 also focuses on sustainability and circularity in the wind energy supply chain. The more turbines we decommission, the more important recycling becomes. 90% of a wind turbine is already fully recyclable. The challenge is the blades. But the industry is working hard on this. Turbine manufacturers have set targets for fully recyclable blades. The world’s first recyclable blade was installed this year by Siemens Gamesa with RecycleBlade© technology in a German offshore wind farm.