Children’s playground in the Netherlands made from old wind turbines. In Greece, the Wind Energy Scientific Association (ELETAEN) has contacted factories for the production of urban equipment from wind turbine blades, which they will make available to municipalities and other organizations.
The life cycle of the first wind turbines installed in Greece in the 1990s is coming to an end and companies have to manage on the one hand the continuity of operation of the most efficient wind farms that first “captured” the best positions in terms of wind potential and networks and on the other hand the enormous volume of equipment to be withdrawn.
As for the first, the continuation of the operation of the wind farms, the solution is simple: “repowering”, that is, the replacement of the old wind turbines with new, more efficient technology that has been followed for a decade in the markets most mature from Europe. and for the first time it was also implemented in Greece by PPC Renewables, the PPC subsidiary which, as the general management of the parent company, installed the first wind turbines on the Greek islands in 1992.
As for the second, the withdrawal of the management of old wind turbines, the great challenge throughout Europe are the blades. Today, 85%-90% of the mass of wind turbines is efficiently 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 useful life annually 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 dismantled wind farms in Europe that complements ‘repowering’. Benches, planters, canopies, offices, playgrounds, bus stops, information kiosks, bicycle frames with material from the blades of aged wind turbines, are the new trend in portable urban equipment… of the European wind industry, followed closely by the Greek.
The wind industry aims to recycle 100% of aging wind turbines.
In Rotterdam, children play on playgrounds made from wind turbine blades, and in the squares of many European cities, benches of blades are on the rise.
In Greece, the offices of ELETAEN (Hellenic Wind Energy Scientific Association) are furnished with desks and other furniture made from the blades of the first wind farms installed by PPC in the early 1990s that have completed their life cycle. Fins were placed at the Children’s Village in Trikkaia Municipality on Christmas days, while one fin forms the base of the office of PPC Renewables CEO Konstantinos Mavros, the 100% PPC subsidiary that 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 the general director of ELETAEN Panagiotis Papastamatiou reveals to “K”, the organization has already contacted the factories and is in collaboration with Intrakat and Vestas for the production of urban equipment from wind turbine blades that will be made available municipalities and other organizations.
However, it is clear that the reuse of fins in this sector cannot cover the huge volume of fins being retired and those that will follow. A part of the wings removed by PPC Renewables, as highlighted in “K” the director of Operations and Production Management of the RES projects of PPC Renewables and member of the Board of Directors. from ELETAEN, Angelos Kasimis, ends up in the cement industry where he mixes with the fuel they burn for their operation. “The fins are received by certified companies – the largest is located in Ritsona –, they crush them and turn them into a kind of powder that is sent to the industry to be burned for free”, he emphasizes. The wind industry’s objective is 100% recycling of wind turbines and in this context the manufacturing companies, as Mr. Papastamatiou points out, have planned the development of new techniques for recycling existing blades, but also the development of new ones. materials so that the new blades are fully recyclable in an easy and efficient way. The first research program is developed by Vestas and the second by Siemens Gamesa.
In Europe, although the law allows for the burial of non-toxic waste, no companies are using it and there are no wind turbine “graveyards” like the ones we see online in the US, industry representatives argue. And regarding the questioning of a part of society about the “green identity” of the wind farms, due to the non-recyclability of the blades, he answers: “There is a problem of value but it is unfair to say that the green identity changes”. of wind farms. They refer to the estimates of the European Association of the Synthetic Materials Industry (EuCIA), according to which “in 2025 the wind sector -despite the even greater growth that 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 construction and electrical and electronic device sectors.”
Their removal and replacement on the islands is complicated and difficult.
PPC Renewables carried out the first Repowering in Greece, replacing 106 wind turbines with 22 of new technology in 10 wind farms that it had installed in the 90s in Psara, Chios, Ikaria, Lesbos, Karpathos, Limnos, Evia and Crete.
PPC Renewables RES Project Production and Operations Management Director Angelos Kasimis describes it to “K” as a huge challenge, an equally complex and demanding process similar to building a wind farm. “It was an unfamiliar field, which was approached methodically and is now standard procedure for us,” he says, describing a series of challenges they had to face managing decommissioned equipment since most of the parks were scattered on small islands. “Not all islands had proper certified units to recycle the materials and we were forced to transport them to other islands or to the mainland system. This requires planning that also depends on the weather conditions, the itineraries and the availability of the boats, the possibility of renting a private boat yourself”, he emphasizes, also pointing out the lack of suitable workshops, since the needs of these projects require Know how The Repowering process begins by initially checking accessibility, as in the intervening years since 1990 a lot may have changed in road construction, explains Mr Kasimis.Then comes the stripping stage, i.e. the removal of the old equipment, starting with the visible parts, everything that is above the foundation (pillar, fins, aerial network, etc.) and later the invisible infrastructures, that is, the bases, the possible basements, wells and finally the restoration of the landscape to its previous state, as established by law.
From there begins the most difficult part of transporting the materials to the facilities of certified companies for their management, which did not exist on the small islands. The companies that take over the management have three options, according to Kasimi: the first is to sell 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 (box, generator, shaft, etc.) and make them available as spare parts for similar type wind turbines. The third management option refers to fins, which certified companies grind into a kind of powder that is channeled to be burned in cement plants.