How do you get rid of old wind turbines? Germany experience | Analysis of the events of political life and society in Germany | DW

Those who see wind turbines from afar are unlikely to have an idea of ​​their true size. After all, windmills are usually too far away or too high to see in detail. And only if they are lying on the floor – disassembled and ready to mount or have already taken their time, you can understand how huge they are.

Despite the fact that wind energy has not yet been actively developed and only a few wind farms are allowed to be built in Germany, many windmills will have to be dismantled – due to wear, replacing blades or due to the need to expand the installation.

How many wind turbines are there in Germany

Wolfram Akthelem, president of the Federal Wind Energy Federation and the Renewable Energy Association, in an interview with DW, mentioned the number of wind turbines currently operating in Germany: “We now have about 30,000 wind turbines installed on the ground. If we multiply that number by three, then you get the number of blades that It spins and produces green energy.”

Technicians adjust the operation of wind turbines from the inside

Will these fixtures continue to function, or will they be dismantled and replaced with new, more efficient ones? “Right now, that’s a minor issue. Right now, we have 10,000 tons of blades a year that have to be broken down and disposed of,” Akstelm says. There is a company in Bremerhaven that “recycles, by heat treating wind turbine blades, for use in cement production”.

Where to put old windmill blades

Eva Philip of Vattenfall Energy Group says, commenting on its decision as of October 2021 to either recycle or accept a disposal method for used wind turbine blades.

broken wind turbine blade

broken wind turbine blade

Until 2025, about 50 percent of the old blades should be recycled, and by 2030 – all one hundred percent. Against the background of the intricacies involved in sorting out the different materials from which the blades are made, this plan seems very ambitious.

East Frisia is one of the most suitable regions in Germany for the construction of offshore wind farms: near the sea, the wind almost always blows and there are no mountains, hills and tall buildings that would impede the flow of winds. Wind turbines have been built in this area for many years and they know how to take them apart and get rid of giant blades best.

Matthias Filippi, spokesman for the owner of the wind farm Enertrag AG, says in an interview with the local newspaper Ostfriesische Rheiderland Zeitung: “But the blades, which consist of a mixture of different materials, including fiberglass, must be disposed of in a different way, using a special chemical treatment. .

This was confirmed in an interview by DW and Christian Dreyer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Research Promotion of Applied Polymers (IAP). He cites the example of wind turbines that contain a lot of copper. It’s the best way to turn it into recyclable materials and get paid for it. And in the case of carbon materials, its profit will be 20 times.

Making new things out of the old?

Can windmill blades be upgraded and run again? Or is it possible to replace only part of it and the installation will work again? “No, it isn’t,” says Eva Phillippe. “If a wind farm can no longer operate, its components are often worn out and have to be recycled or used for some other purpose, for example, the blades can serve as baffles.

Wind turbine manufacturers try not to use materials that are difficult to recycle

Wind turbine manufacturers try not to use materials that are difficult to recycle

Wolfram Axtel also believes that making a new one out of two old blades is not realistic. He supports the Energy Concerns Plan, which states that by 2030, 50 percent of worn-out wind turbines will be disposed of and made into recyclable materials. Eva Philippe, in turn, notes that the implementation of these plans will be very expensive: “At the moment, recycling blades will cost more than just burning them. But we hope that these technologies will become cheaper, because technology is constantly evolving. “

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