Wind energy’s big disposal problem

Posted: July 16, 2018 by oldbrew in Big Green, opinion, wind
Tags: ,

German wind farm


Optimism – or is it wishful thinking? – may not be unusual among so-called greens, but merely hoping for solutions after creating the problems doesn’t look like much of a strategy.

Germany has more than 28,000 wind turbines — but many are old and by 2023 more than a third must be decommissioned. Disposing of them is a huge environmental problem.

Expert Jan Tessmer (coordinator on wind energy research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR)) tells DW he’s optimistic.

DW: Dr Tessmer, disposing of wind turbines is extremely difficult. Their concrete bases go as deep as 30 meters into the ground, and are hard to fully remove, while the rotor blades contain glass and carbon fibers — they give off dust and toxic gases so burning them isn’t an option. Some environmentalists say this problem is being swept under the carpet, what do you think?

Jan Tessmer: I actually think everything is relative. Of course it is an issue and of course you don’t get anything for free, but you always have to see it in relation, what are the values you get out of the wind turbine and I think yes, some efforts have to be made to efficiently, and also without environmental damage, get turbines recycled or out of the ground.

There are huge concrete foundations that have to be gotten out but I don’t see there being any principal problem that could not be overcome. It will probably be a challenge for technology. It will really be an issue over the next years and decades probably to get old turbines off the field, so I expect industry will find technologies to cope with it.

Is the difficulty in disposing of wind turbines hurting wind energy’s reputation as a green power source?

Yes, sure. I actually think it is important that we find good technologies for recycling, because wind turbines are pioneers in green energy technologies, and it would be a pity if we also cannot find green and environmentally-friendly technologies for recycling them. But as I said, I think it’s only a matter of time to develop them and I’m quite confident that the image of wind turbines can be kept as a green technology.

Continued here.

Related: NextEra Energy uses over 800 metric tons of concrete per wind turbine

Comments
  1. oldbrew says:

    Germany has more than 28,000 wind turbines — but many are old and by 2023 more than a third must be decommissioned.

    That’s millions of tons of concrete bases before even starting on the turbines. And it’s an ongoing process of obsolescence.
    – – –
    Another demolition of Germany’s ‘green energy’ pretensions here…

    TRUMP, NATO SUMMIT EXPOSED GERMANY’S ENERGY PROBLEM
    Date: 16/07/18 Jude Clemente, Forbes

    Germany’s CO2 emissions are just 2% of the global total, so even reaching climate goals “would have no perceptible theoretical effect on global temperature.”
    http://www.thegwpf.com/trump-nato-summit-exposed-germanys-energy-problem/

    So-called virtue signalling gone mad, at vast expense to the public.

  2. MrGrimNasty says:

    And a mountain of toxic leaking solar panels……………….

    I accidentally looked at the Rampion wind farm today, there still seem to be 2 or 3 big ships servicing it. And together with all the ship fuel and fossil fuel energy for materials used to build it in the first place – it would probably have been cheaper and greener just to run some diesel generators for 15 years!

  3. stpaulchuck says:

    all these idiot windmills are pretentious claptrap made manifest. Massive amounts of pollution from mining and refining exotic metals right down to disposing of these monsters. They are a crime against the planet, not some simple living giving trace gas.

    The Brits nailed it years ago. These windmill travesties are just ‘subsidy farms’. Millions in the pockets of “friends of Congress” and “friends of Parliament”. *spit*

  4. oldbrew says:

    Anyone want 10,000 of these?

  5. A Man of No Rank says:

    Lifted from Professor Ian Plimmer’s excellent ‘Climate Change Delusion’ book:

    Wind turbine blades are composite materials many of which contain epoxy resin. One component of epoxy resin is Bisphenol A, a chemical which should never be disposed of in landfill. It is so toxic that it is banned by the European Union.

    Plimmer adds that there are about a quarter of a million tonnes of epoxy resins used in turbine blades worldwide

    Makes you stop and think doesn’t it!

  6. thefordprefect says:

    stpaulchuck says:July 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm
    …Massive amounts of pollution from mining and refining exotic metals right down to disposing of these monsters.
    ————————–
    Metals are easily recycled.
    Blades are the main problem:
    = composite materials

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    A Man of No Rank says:”Makes you stop and think doesn’t it”

    Toxic pollution is not a bad thing if it is created in the pursuit of the Green Agenda.
    They MUST save the world! even if it means destroying it in the process. The resources of the world must be saved for future generations even if we must eliminate all humans.
    You can not depend on logical argument with Ecoloons, their religion depends on dogma not logic for all their answers as to the lives to be lived by others…pg.

  8. thefordprefect says:

    I think that recyclability is 85% of mass:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257679862_Life_cycle_assessment_of_wind_power_Comprehensive_results_from_a_state-of-the-art_approach

    I wonder how this compares to a thermal station

  9. Kip Hansen says:

    Certainly, if the existing wind turbines are in favorable sites, the concrete bases can simply be used for the modern replacements of the outmoded models. Similarly, the connections to the grid are already in place, why wouldn’t you just replace the turbine?

  10. MrGrimNasty says:

    “Why wouldn’t you just replace the turbine.”

    Because the same overly generous subsidies will not be on the table, the windmills will not be financially viable, there will be no profit in replacing them. They will be left to rot. As has happened to thousands in the USA installed since the 80s.

  11. Saighdear says:

    Why, Why, Why – why doesn’t someone answer the question: 1. German Quality engineering & Maintenance schedules, etc – do they NEED to be replaced? 2. Can’t the foundations be re-used or augmented for larger windmills?

  12. Graeme No.3 says:

    A man of no rank:

    Bisphenol A is the basis of many epoxy resins but it is very hard to extract it from the resin. And just because the EU says something is toxic doesn’t mean much, unless you have the right conditions so the Bisphenol is ‘available’ as a contaminant or for human exposure.
    Many of the early wind turbine blades were made with unsaturated polyester resins as their construction was based on marine use e.g. power boats. These too could break down but bear in mind that some boats lasted 60 years outdoors exposed to UV and water in Australia where the UV is far greater than in Europe.
    Lastly, the blades could be broken down and ground to a powder which could be re-used (in limited quantities) as a ‘filler’ in newer items.
    All in all, the claim is a beat-up.

  13. Graeme No.3 says:

    Saighdear:
    Bearings wear out. Blades are subject to fatigue from flexing and impact. And as they become unprofitable (when subsidies reduce or are eliminated) regular maintenance would be one of the first expenses eliminated.

  14. oldbrew says:

    Who is going to be paying for any recycling? Scrap dealers won’t want toxic waste.

  15. oldbrew says:

    TRUMP, NATO SUMMIT EXPOSED GERMANY’S ENERGY PROBLEM

    But, I want to focus on Germany’s energy situation here, a predicament of its own making. It was all supposed to be so different. Backed by its ambitious Energiewende“energy transition” plan and the Kyoto Protocol, the country has invested heavily for decades now to not just “get off” Russian energy but to get away from fossil fuels altogether.

    The reality is that this isn’t coming close to happening. For example, wind and solar still supply just 3% of Germany’s energy, compared to to a whopping 79% for fossil fuel (see Figure). As for power, which accounts for less than half of all energy consumed but is the only energy market that wind and solar compete in, even though “Germany has spent $200 billion over the past two decades to promote cleaner sources of electricity,” wind and solar supply just 18% of electricity, compared to 43% for coal – mind-blowing because we were told that coal would “go away the fastest.”

    http://www.thegwpf.com/trump-nato-summit-exposed-germanys-energy-problem/
    – – –
    Industrial economies can never be run on intermittent power sources, no matter how much money and resources get thrown at doing just that. It’s not a question of trying harder.

  16. thefordprefect says:

    oldbrew says July 17, 2018 at 9:54 am
    Industrial economies can never be run on intermittent power sources, no matter how much money and resources get thrown at doing just that. It’s not a question of trying harder.
    ——————————–
    All power sources are intermittent. eg. today 6GW of nuclear is available, With all generators operational this should be 8GW. at least one of the outages was a trip = 600MW instantly offline one is off line because of graphite disintegration. Others are plenned inspections or refuelling . The edf site seems to have stopped updating so current status no available.

    https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/power-station/daily-statuses
    wecs failing reduce output by 6MW. wind fail is not instant so thermal power can be ramped up. I agree that a grid powered by renewables cannot function without backup (batteries, thermal stations, pumped).
    There must be backup for all forms of generation.

  17. Turbine blades can and are being disposed of in the back end of cement rotary kilns. (temperature of gases at backend around 1200C and at the front in the flame about 3200C) with no emission of any dangerous gas. However, the costs of handling and crushing are high and the cement companies in Germany are charging a high premium for disposal of crushed material (I recall reading something like EU20/tonne). Any CO2 emissions from burning the waste (or any waste) do not count towards fossil fuel emissions. The SiO2 from the glassfibre reinforcing becomes a raw material and leaves with the clinker. I also read somewhere that the rate of disposal at present is about 50,000 tpa.

  18. Mjw says:

    A Man of No Rank says:”Makes you stop and think doesn’t it”
    In Australia they are in the process of banning single use grocery bags because of the landfill problem.
    How many plastic bags to a wind turbine blade?

  19. stpaulchuck says:

    thefordprefect says:
    July 16, 2018 at 9:35 pm+

    stpaulchuck says:July 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm
    …Massive amounts of pollution from mining and refining exotic metals right down to disposing of these monsters.
    ————————–
    Metals are easily recycled.
    ****************************

    I was not referring to the metals but to the massive pollution in mining and refining the metals. That pollution has already occurred and continues to occur. The windmills are in direct competition with other uses like hybrid vehicles and such. The rare earths are in great demand and the number of windmills that would go out of use thus freeing those metals into the other industries is exceedingly small. So, windmill demand just increases the pollution which is rarely remediated in the countries where it occurs (China mainly).

  20. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    I actually think it is important that we find good technologies for recycling, because wind turbines are pioneers in green energy technologies, and it would be a pity if we also cannot find green and environmentally-friendly technologies for recycling them.

    So they are green pioneers but they can’t recycle their product. Riiiiiiiiiight

  21. oldbrew says:

    tfp – re There must be backup for all forms of generation.

    Of course there are power station outages. But they’re not all out at the same time, unlike solar at night or when high pressure systems minimize wind over large parts of the country at the same time.

  22. thefordprefect says:

    stpaulchuck says: July 17, 2018 at 4:26 pm
    I was not referring to the metals but to the massive pollution in mining and refining the metals. That pollution has already occurred and continues to occur. The windmills are in direct competition with other uses like hybrid vehicles and such. The rare earths are in great demand and the number of windmills that would go out of use thus freeing those metals into the other industries is exceedingly small. So, windmill demand just increases the pollution which is rarely remediated in the countries where it occurs (China mainly).
    ———————
    Huh?
    some turbines do not use rare earths
    rare earths do not get consumed – they are recycled

    all generation uses metal/concrete/plastic in construction. so what is the difference?

  23. thefordprefect says:

    oldbrew says: July 17, 2018 at 6:49 pm
    tfp – re There must be backup for all forms of generation.
    Of course there are power station outages. But they’re not all out at the same time, unlike solar at night or when high pressure systems minimize wind over large parts of the country at the same time.
    —————————————-
    wind does not cease over the whole country instantaneously – obviously
    Solar not quite so predictable

    distributed generation is good.

    currently 1.2GW of power went offline in 2 trips. 600MW lost in each trip. The time of the trip is not predictable.

    Wind offline over the whole country would have reached that state slowly and predictably – a days warning ?? depending on the weather forecast accuracy

    Night is very predictable! Sun is weather and a certain amount of prediction is possible

  24. oldbrew says:

    Artificial reefs solution for retired offshore windfarms?

    THE COST OF WIND POWER: WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
    Date: 17/07/18 Andrew Montford, GWPF

    the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently published a paper on the potential decommissioning costs of all those offshore wind turbines that they are so keen on installing. The answer is as follows:

    The total estimated decommissioning cost is £1.28bn to £3.64bn…

    That’s for 34 windfarms, so £100 million each. You can see why there might be a sudden upsurge of interest in creating artificial reefs out of large marine structures rather than having to fork out money to chop them up and take them back to shore.

    Interestingly, the report also notes this:
    …it was acknowledged that earlier studies on the Levelised Cost of Energy from offshore wind…did not account for decommissioning costs, or the cost of procuring securities.

    They estimate that if a cash security was required up front, it would add nearly 5% to the levelised cost.

    http://www.thegwpf.com/the-cost-of-wind-power-worse-than-we-thought/
    – – –

  25. oldbrew says:

    UK wind power just now – how many £billions have been spent so far?

    tfp says: wind does not cease over the whole country instantaneously – obviously

    That wasn’t claimed, but the figure above is negligible compared to demand. With the current weather patterns this is a typical percentage (< 2%).

  26. oldbrew says:

    Power Politics: Rocketing Power Prices Demand Immediate End to Wind & Solar Subsidies
    July 18, 2018 by stopthesethings

    The causes of Australia’s self-inflicted renewable energy disaster are all political; and have nothing to do with physics, engineering, the weather or some kind of fossil-fuelled conspiracy.

    The policies were deliberately designed to destroy Australia’s affordable and reliable power supplies. And, according to their purpose, they’ve done just that.

    http://stopthesethings.com/2018/07/18/power-politics-rocketing-power-prices-demand-immediate-end-to-wind-solar-subsidies/

  27. Phil-M says:

    I am no fan of wind farms but I don’t understand why concrete bases would need to be removed. Cover them with topsoil and leave them.

  28. nickreality65 says:

    No different from decommissioning a large thermal power plant.
    Of course that thermal power plant actually generated meaningful amounts of energy.
    Or junking an old car.

  29. oldbrew says:

    UK’s offshore wind decommissioning costs ‘could hit £3.6bn’

    The final cost will depend on whether some infrastructure can be left in place and on which tools and processes are used

    http://www.energylivenews.com/2018/07/20/uks-offshore-wind-decommissioning-costs-could-hit-3-6bn/
    – – –
    Are we going to run out of wind? Sticking all these expensive structures in the sea for just a few years looks extravagant.

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