New subsidies for ageing European wind farms, or death spiral?

Posted: May 13, 2018 by oldbrew in government, opinion, turbines, wind
Tags: ,

German wind farm

Good luck dismantling and trying to recycle redundant end-of-life wind turbines and their massive concrete bases.

New academic research on whether to repower or extend the lifetime of an obsolescent wind farm in Europe reveals that without new subsidies for repowered sites, low cost lifetime extensions focused on maximising return before decommissioning are more probable, with a potential to affect about half the wind turbine fleet in Germany, Spain and Denmark.

In the absence of new subsidies, we could be looking at the beginning of the end for the wind industry in Europe, says The GWPF’s energy editor.

In March this year the renewables policy cheerleaders, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which is predominantly funded by the European Climate Foundation and the Grantham Foundation, published a study, Repower to the People, claiming that the UK could and should repower some sixty onshore wind farms over the next five years and so gain a net increase in capacity of more than 1.3 GW.

The paper did not examine the underlying economics and policy context of decisions to repower, and relied simply on the reader’s naïve enthusiasm for technological progress when confronted with the fact that, for example, contemporary turbines are two to three times the capacity (2–3 MW) of the previous generation (< 1 MW), with the latest models approaching 4 MW.

Bigger must surely be better, especially given the obvious economies:

As well as offering simplicities and potentially lower costs compared with developing a new site, repowering is also logical given that many of the earliest wind farms are in locations that have the best wind resource. (Repower to the People, p. 4.)

Sympathetic MPs were produced to provide quotations in the press suggesting that it was simply a question of government removing the obstacles to this commonsense development, with Mr Simon Clarke, the Conservative Party’s MP for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, being reported as observing that:

For those worried about the 1 per cent of UK gas imports that come from Mr Putin, these upgrades would also reduce our reliance on imported fuel by the equivalent of two gas-fired power stations; and if we don’t allow developers to repower them, we may lose them for good. (Utility Week, 27.03.18)

There is of course nothing to stop developers repowering such sites, except that there are no subsidies available, and without such subsidies the low market prices probable over the next decade are insufficient to motivate re-investment.

Furthermore, the owners seeking to repower would have to apply for a new planning consent, which would be problematic now that the unneighbourliness of large wind turbines is notorious.

Continued here.

  1. Bitter@twisted says:

    “Energy and Climate INTELLIGENCE Unit”?!
    They must be taking the p1ss.

  2. oldbrew says:

    The paper did not examine the underlying economics and policy context of decisions to repower

    Just hold out the begging bowl like Oliver Twist :/

  3. ivan says:

    There is one problem with that picture oldbrew – the people that want to hold out the begging bowl are fat cats that are just as likely to hold a gun to the heads of the government.

  4. Saighdear says:

    at Bitter@twisted “the p1ss” ? Aye indeed – that’s the stuff comin or fa’in oot o’ oor dra’rs! Some call it Taxes ( Cash ) fae oor pockets!

  5. TinyCO2 says:

    The site to watch is North Hoyle, the first big offshore set up. NPower/RWE recently sold it. A sign of smart investing by Greencoat or NPower getting out while the going is good? If the concern that offshore sites might fail well short of their 30 year life is genuine then we might see a sign of things to come there.

  6. JB says:

    I support euthanasia for certain “technologies.” These are among them.

  7. ferdberple says:

    Long before the turbines are paid for they are to be replaced by even bigger turbines.

    End result. More CO2 than if you had done nothing.

  8. Richard111 says:

    Saw a busted turbine the other day. No blades and turbine body looked burnt or rusty.
    Sign of the times?

  9. oldbrew says:

    Any replacements – if subsidies are made available – will probably be bigger, so the planning permissions will have new issues (appearance, noise, distance between turbines etc.).

    Britain starts dismantling wind farms after successful Lake District campaign
    – – –
    March 8, 2015 • England
    Bigger wind turbines will ‘devastate’ Lake District views

    Plans to replace one of Britain’s oldest wind farms with new turbines almost three times as tall will have a “devastating” effect on the Lake District, campaigners have warned.

    The 12 turbines of the existing Kirkby Moor wind farm, which was built in 1993, are each 139 feet tall and stand less than a mile outside the southern boundary of the National Park.

    Energy company RWE Innogy is seeking planning permission to replace them with six new turbines, each up to 377 feet tall, which it says could together generate up to five times as much power as the existing wind farm.

    Kirkby Moor Wind Farm plan REJECTED after impassioned local opposition
    5 December 2017

  10. oldbrew says:

    Richard111 says: Saw a busted turbine the other day.

    What are the owners going to do about it?

  11. ivan says:

    oldbrew, I think the answer to your question is, what they are doing now Nothing. Unless they are forced to dismantle the monstrosities they will stand as a monument to government stupidity.

  12. oldbrew says:


    In fact, the dismantling of wind turbines is at least as complicated as their installation. With two cranes, every turbine is dismantled piece by piece. Turbines, rotor blades, tower houses and other components from discarded German wind farms are in great demand in Poland, Italy and Russia. At the second-hand market, they can obtain good prices.

  13. stpaulchuck says:

    in 50 to 100 years from now our descendants will look at pictures of this windmill insanity and just shake their heads in disbelief that we fell for such an inane “solution” to a non existent problem. These gawd awful ugly blights will forever mark this era as a warning sign to others.