It is not always possible to continue operating old systems. In some cases the turbines must be dismantled.
About 28,000 wind turbines are spinning under the German sky - many of them operating since the late nineties. Currently, the wind industry faces major challenges: With the expiration of the eligibility for subsidies under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) after 20 years, the operators have to decide whether the older plants should be decommissioned, dismantled, repowered or continue to operate as before. Under current conditions, this will impact approximately four gigawatts of wind project output nationwide according to estimates by the Institute for Integrated Production Hannover (IPH). In the future, an additional 2.4 gigawatts of EEG funding will be eliminated on average per year.
Continued operation not always possible
It is not always possible for operators to replace existing systems with more modern and efficient systems (repowering). Often, limits imposed under construction law prohibit the repowering of systems and the cost-effectiveness must be re-examined for each project.
If project operators decide to shut down plants, the question arises as to how the plant components can be recycled. The focus is on the questions of what standards should be set for the environmentally sound recycling of wind turbines and which processes for material recycling of the turbine components can be used to cover costs. "It is important to research efficient re-use and recycling strategies for the wind turbine and its components, because the wave of dismantling rolls towards us, with up to 4500 facilities losing subsidies in 2020 alone," said Martin Westbomke, Project Engineer at IPH.
Research project for recycling
The IPH is researching the issue under "DemoNetXXL - Disassembly Networks for XXL Products," a project aimed at developing concrete recommendations for the dismantling process. Among other things, researchers are investigating how complete the wind turbines have to be disassembled into their individual parts on site and what steps can be taken at the dismantling center.
Wind turbine recycling could offer an important contribution to the recovery of valuable resources and thus to resource efficiency - not only in Germany but also at the European level. "Lawmakers will also have to respond to the repowering and decommissioning wave, so that better control and monitoring instruments can be used instead of pure cost optimization," said Markus Binding, Managing Director of Veolia Environmental Services in the West Region. "With consistent recycling, we can make the energy transition in Germany even more ecological," he said.
Translation from German completed using Google Translate.