Children’s playground in the Netherlands from old wind turbines. In Greece, the Scientific Association of Wind Energy (ELETAEN) has contacted factories for the production of urban equipment from wind turbine blades, which they will make available to municipalities and other bodies.
The life cycle of the first wind turbines installed in Greece in the 1990s is coming to an end and companies must manage, on the one hand, the continuity of operation of the most efficient wind farms which first “took” the best positions in terms of of the wind potential and the networks and on the other hand the enormous volume to be removed from the equipment.
As for the first, the continuation of the operation of the parks, the solution is simple: “repowering”, that is to say the replacement of old wind turbines by a new technology with higher efficiency which has been followed for a decade by the most mature markets in Europe. and for the first time it was also implemented in Greece by PPC Renewables, the subsidiary of PPC which, as a general management of the parent company, installed the first wind turbines on the Greek islands in 1992.
Regarding the second, the management of old wind turbines being retired, the big challenge on a European scale is the blades. Today, 85-90% of the mass of wind turbines is effectively recycled, with blades being the exception due to the synthetic materials they contain. WindEurope expects around 25,000 tonnes of blades to reach the end of their life each year by 2025, while the annual dismantling volume could double to 52,000 tonnes by 2030.
The use of wind turbine blades for the manufacture of urban equipment is part of the management of European decommissioned wind farms which completes “repowering”. Benches, planters, awnings, desks, playgrounds, bus stops, information kiosks, bicycle frames with materials from aging wind turbine blades, are the new trend in portable urban equipment… of the industry European wind turbine, closely followed by the Greek one.
The wind industry aims to recycle 100% of aging wind turbines.
In Rotterdam, children play on playgrounds made of wind turbine blades, and in the squares of many European cities the blade-benches are multiplying.
In Greece, the offices of ELETAEN (Hellenic Scientific Association of Wind Energy) are decorated with desks and other furniture made from the blades of the first wind farms installed by PPC in the early 90s which have completed their life cycle. Fins have been placed on Christmas days in the children’s village of the municipality of Trikkaia, while a fin forms the base of the office of the general manager of PPC Renewables, Konstantinos Mavros, the 100% subsidiary of PPC which has completed the first cycle of “repowering” in Greece. In the near future, in fact, in Greece we will see many types of urban equipment from portable wind turbines… ELETAEN. As revealed to “K” the general manager of ELETAEN Panagiotis Papastamatiou, the organization has already contacted factories and is in collaboration with Intrakat and Vestas for the production of urban equipment from wind turbine blades which will be put to use. available to municipalities and other organizations.
It is clear however that the reuse of fins in this sector cannot cover the huge volume of discarded fins and those that will follow. Part of the wings removed by PPC Renewables, as noted in “K” by the Director of Operations and Production Management for PPC Renewables’ RES Projects and a member of the Board of Directors. of ELETAEN, Angelos Kasimis, ends up in the cement industry where it is mixed with the fuel they burn for their operation. “The fins are received by certified companies – the largest is located in Ritsona – they grind them and transform them into a kind of powder which is sent to the industry to be burned free of charge”, he points out. The wind industry is aiming for 100% recycling of wind turbines and in this context the industrialists, as Mr. Papastamatiou points out, have planned the development of new techniques for recycling existing blades, but also the development of new materials so that new the blades are completely recyclable in a simple and effective way. The first research program is developed by Vestas and the second by Siemens Gamesa.
In Europe, although legislation allows the burial of non-toxic waste, no company uses it and there are no wind turbine “graveyards” like the ones seen online in the United States, say industry representatives. And faced with questions from part of society about the “green identity” of wind farms, due to the non-recyclability of the blades, they respond: “There is a problem of value but it is unfair to say that it changes the green identity of wind farms.” They refer to estimates by the European Synthetic Materials Industry Association (EuCIA), that “by 2025, the wind sector – despite the even greater growth it is expected to experience in the coming years – will be responsible for 10% of synthetic waste worldwide. The largest percentage of synthetic materials will come from the building sector and from electronic and electrical appliances.”
Their removal and replacement on the islands is complicated and difficult
PPC Renewables carried out the first Repowering in Greece by replacing 106 wind turbines with 22 new technologies in 10 wind farms it had installed in the 90s in Psara, Chios, Ikaria, Lesvos, Karpathos, Limnos, Evia and Crete.
PPC Renewables’ RES Projects Operations and Generation Management Director, Angelos Kasimis, describes it to “K” as a big challenge, an equally complex and demanding process similar to building a wind farm. . “It was uncharted territory, which was approached methodically and is now standard operating procedure for us,” he says, describing a series of challenges they faced in managing stripped equipment, as the most of the parks were scattered on small islands. “Not all islands had suitable certified units to recycle materials and we were forced to transport them to other islands or to the mainland system. This requires planning which also depends on the weather conditions, the routes and the availability of the ships, the possibility of chartering a private ship yourself”, he underlines, also pointing to the lack of suitable workshops, because the needs of these projects require know-how. The repowering process begins by first checking accessibility, because in the years since 1990, a lot may have changed in road construction, Kasimis says. Then comes the stripping stage, that is to say the removal of the old equipment, starting with the visible parts, everything that is above the foundation (pillar, fins, aerial network, etc.) and then the invisible infrastructure, that is to say the foundations, any basements, wells and finally the restoration of the landscape to its previous state, as provided for by law.
From there begins the most difficult part of transporting the materials to the facilities of the companies certified for their management, which did not exist on the small islands. Companies that take over management have three options, according to Mr. Kasimi: The first is to resell them on the secondary market, where there is demand from countries whose institutional framework allows the installation of old wind turbines. The second is to remove parts (housing, generator, shaft, etc.) and make them available as spare parts for similar types of wind turbines. The third management option involves fins, which certified companies grind into a sort of powder that is channeled to be burned in cement plants.