As older turbines see subsidies expire, thousands are expected to be taken offline due to lack of profitability. Green nightmare: Wind park operators eye shipping thousands of tons of wind turbine litter to third world countries – and leaving their concrete rubbish in the ground.
The Swiss national daily Baseler Zeitung here recently reported how Germany’s wind industry is facing a potential “abandonment”.
Approvals tougher to get
This is yet another blow to Germany’s Energiewende (transition to green energies). A few days ago I reported here how the German solar industry had seen a monumental jobs-bloodbath and investments had been slashed to a tiny fraction of what they once had been.
Over the years Germany has made approvals for new wind parks more difficult as the country reels from an unstable power grid and growing protests against the blighted landscapes and health hazards.
Now that the wind energy boom has ended, the Baseler Zeitung reports that “the shutdown of numerous wind turbines could soon lead to a drop in production” after having seen years of ruddy growth.
Subsidies for old turbines run out
Today a large number of Germany’s 29,000 total turbines nationwide are approaching 20 years old and for the most part they are outdated.
Worse: the generous subsidies granted at the time of their installation are slated to expire soon and thus make them unprofitable. After 2020, thousands of these turbines will lose their subsidies with each passing year, which means they will be taken offline and mothballed.
The Baseler Zeitung writes:
In many cases the earnings will not be able to cover the continued operation costs of the turbines. After 20 years of operation, the turbines require more maintenance and some expensive repairs.”
The Baseler Zeitung adds that some 5700 turbines with an installed capacity of 45 MW will see their subsidies run out by 2020. The Swiss daily reports further:
The German Windenergie federal association estimates that approximately 14,000 megawatts of installed capacity will lose their subsidies by 2023, which is more than a quarter of the German wind energy capacity.”
So with new turbines coming online only slowly, it’s entirely possible that wind energy output in Germany will recede in the coming years, thus making the country appear even less serious about climate protection.
Wind turbine dump in Africa?
So what happens to the old turbines that will get taken offline?
Windpark owners hope to send their scrapped wind turbine clunkers to third world buyers, Africa for example. But if these buyers instead opt for new energy systems, then German wind park operators will be forced to dismantle and recycle them – a costly endeavor, the Baseler Zeitung reports.
Impossible to recycle composite materials
The problem here are the large blades, which are made of fiberglass composite materials and whose components cannot be separated from each other. Burning the blades is extremely difficult, toxic and energy-intensive. So naturally there’s a huge incentive for German wind park operators to dump the old contraptions onto third world countries, and to let them deal later with the garbage.
Sweeping garbage under the rug
Next the Baseler Zeitung brings up the disposal of the massive 3000-tonne reinforced concrete turbine base, which according to German law must be removed.
Some of these concrete bases reach depths of 20 meters and penetrate multiple ground layers, the Baseler Zeitung reports, adding:
The complete removal of the concrete base can quickly run up to several hundreds of thousands of euros. Many wind park operators have not made the corresponding provisions for this expense.”
Already wind park operators are circumventing this huge expense by only removing the top two meters of the concrete and steel base, and then hiding the rest with a layer of soil, the Baseler writes.
In the end most of the concrete base will remain as garbage buried in the ground, and the above-ground turbine litter will likely get shipped to third world countries.
That’s Germany’s Energiewende and contribution to protecting the environment and climate!