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Solving wind farms’ ‘end of life’ challenges key to meeting renewables targets

The first edition of WindEurope’s End-of-Life Issues and Strategies (EoLIS) seminar enjoyed a great success.

More than 170 delegates from more than 100 organisations, European institutions and national governments gathered in the old Irish College in Leuven, Belgium for the first seminar dedicated to lifetime extension, repowering and decommissioning of wind assets.

A significant share of Europe’s wind turbine fleet will come to the end of its operational life within the next 10 to 15 years. In order to fulfil Europe’s long-term decarbonisation agenda, the share of wind energy in the energy mix needs to grow further, and this outgoing generation capacity will have to be replaced. According to WindEurope’s analysis, 22 GW of onshore wind will come to the end of its operational life over the next 5 years. Nearly 18 GW will see their life extended, and 2.1 GW will be repowered.

The decision to lifetime-extend relies on a set of legal, technical, and economic factors which were all presented and discussed during the morning session of the seminar. Delegates were provided with a pan-European legislation overview, comparing the situation in different countries. On the technical side, the session addressed how to assess the reliability of critical turbine components, while on the economic side, the session looked at some indicators of the market price in relation to operations. The different drivers affecting the business case for lifetime extension were also discussed.

In the afternoon, the sessions looked in to repowering (the partial or full replacement of wind assets in a given site). With concrete examples and real-world case studies, the session analysed the different factors leading to deciding to repower a wind farm, the advantages repowering brings, such as an increase in capacity for, often, less turbines; and the challenges developers face when opting for this option.

Finally, delegates heard about decommissioning – the complete removal of wind assets, and the questions it raises in terms of reuse in second-hand markets and recycling of wind asset components.

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