Today 34,000 turbines are 15 years or older, representing 36 GW of onshore wind capacity. Out of the 36 GW some 9 GW are 20-24 years old and around 1 GW are 25 years or older.
This creates a big market for decommissioning of onshore wind farms over the next decade. However, an international standard for decommissioning wind turbines does not exist today. WindEurope therefore launched a Task Force for Dismantling and Decommissioning to produce guidelines for sustainable decommissioning. This document summarises that work with the aim of inputting the elaboration of an international standard through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). As such, the document should be used
as non-prescriptive general guidance, providing only highlevel information on decommissioning and dismantling steps for onshore wind farms.
The Task Force identified the main regulations for dismantling onshore wind farms in key European countries - France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The regulatory mapping includes identifying European and national legislation for waste management and site restoration. As the objective is circularity, we refer throughout the document to this as resources management (oils, rare earths, metals, composites, concrete, electric cables).
The decommissioning plan is the key document for the decommissioning of a wind farm. A decommissioning plan of a wind farm must reflect national and, in some cases, regional or local legislation. These guidelines provide key ones using an example of a German decommissioning plan as well as an example of a communication plan in France.
The dismantling of a wind farm is also dependant on different national guidelines for demolition. In the case of Germany, we present an overview of the DIN 18007 against which most common procedures are evaluated in terms of their suitability and impact depending on construction, component and building material. Cutting and separating methods as well as loading and transport steps are addressed in the dismantling chapter, together with the health and safety requirements, which are crucial for a sustainable decommissioning.
Wind turbines are a valuable source of resources that can be reintroduced into the circular economy. The aim should preferably be for use over the long-term, as this is the most sustainable application. However, at some point in time, wind turbines will reach the end of its life and valuable resources must be returned to the material cycle. The resource management chapter of these guidelines presents the key materials that can be found in a turbine (metals, oils, rare earths, composites and concrete) and recycling methods for rare earths, composites and concrete.
If not specified otherwise, once decommissioned, the wind farm will have to restore the site to a greenfield. Due to the residue-free removal of all operating fluids during the preparatory work for the dismantling, as well as the provision of binding agents, emissions into groundwater and soil are not to be expected, or only to a minimal extent. An example of site restoration to a greenfield in Germany is provided in the guidelines as well. Health and safety requirements should always be a top priority throughout the whole process of decommissioning a wind farm. That, and a solid communication plan with the local authorities, are key factors for a sustainable decommissioning of a wind farm.