Decommissioning onshore wind farms

Circular approach to decommissioning onshore wind turbines in Germany.Supporting the German Federal Environment Agency entrusted Ramboll with a strategy for the end-of-life process incl. waste management, reuse of valuable materials, political framework, to ensure a more sustainable decommissioning of the country's onshore wind turbines.
Wind Farm in Vähäkyrö
The German onshore wind farm consists of more than 27,000 wind turbines (WTs), which make the largest contribution to electricity production from renewable energies in Germany at around 40%. As this is a relatively young industry (first commissioning in the 1990s), there is little experience in the field of turbine decommissioning. Dismantling has been increasingly used in recent years, among other things for reasons of functional efficiency, stability and economic viability. In addition, the substitution of still functional turbines with more powerful WTs, so-called repowering, will lead to further decommissioning activities. Strategies for the end-of-life process are therefore needed.
Reusing raw materials and minimising environmental impact
Wind turbines consist of many components, including fiberglass-reinforced plastics, transmissions, permanent magnets and lubricants. Although some of these materials can be reappropriated into the production cycle during dismantling, others need to be disposed of responsibly. Our role involves surveying and documenting current practice and assessing the waste streams, as well as developing a best practice guide for optimised management of the waste streams.
Insufficient recycling capacities for decommissioning of wind turbines
As legislation determines the modern and sustainable management of waste streams, the circular economy project will require an understanding of regulatory guidance and legislation. The study reveals a need for action. In addition to bottlenecks in recycling capacities, improper decommissioning poses risks to people and the environment. Our experts evaluated the options and give recommendations for effective policies, weighing technical and political aspects. In addition, the project also shows manufacturers ways in which they can take aspects of the circular economy into account when designing turbine components. In this way, the turbines of tomorrow will become even more sustainable.

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  • Ferdinand Zotz

    Ferdinand Zotz

    Principal, Circular Economy and Resource Management

    +49 89 978970141

  • Ask Tonsgaard Hjordt Brüel

    Ask Tonsgaard Hjordt Brüel

    Global Head of Energy & Utility

    +45 51 61 29 15