1. Why do I need to decommission my small scale wind turbine?
A wind turbine typically lasts around 20-25 years. During this time, as with a car, some parts may need replacing. At the end of its life, a wind turbine can either be decommissioned i.e. taken down, or repowered i.e. replaced with a new wind turbine.
2. What typically happens in the decommissioning and repowering stage?
At the end of the operation phase, onshore wind sites will either be decommissioned or repowered. As the operation phase is around 25 years, there are only a small number of examples of UK wind energy projects reaching the decommissioning phase and many of those sites have been repowered.
Where sites are repowered, repower proposals will require feasibility studies and planning approvals. While the costs of a new wind turbine accounts for a large proportion of the investment cost, there are opportunities for cost savings on repowered sites compared with new sites, as access to the site and grid connections are already there. Repowering can also mean significant increases in capacity due to the higher capacity of the latest wind turbine designs.
Where sites are decommissioned, the nature of the work will depend on the planning conditions and will vary from site to site. As a minimum, this will involve taking down and disposing of the wind turbine.
3. How do I handle a decommissioning plan properly?
The way that a local authority wishes to have a wind turbine decommissioned should be covered by clauses in its planning permission. These clauses typically require all visible traces of the wind turbine to be removed. Service tracks, if there are any, could be removed, although it may be best to leave them. Obviously each case is different, depending upon the size and geography of the development. Developers will then comply with these clauses.
The concrete bases could be removed, but it may be better to leave them under the ground, as this causes less disturbance. If so, they would be covered with peat, stone or other indigenous material, and the site returned as closely as practicable to its original state. The turbine itself will often have a scrap value which will cover the costs of such ground restoration.
Wind energy technology is essentially reversible, and compared to the problems associated with decommissioning a nuclear power station, or a coal or gas fired plant, decommissioning a wind turbine is straight forward and simple.