We have blogged about this before. In order to build a turbine, there are hundred of gallons of oil, toxic chemicals, concrete, steel, etc. that is generated. Turbines do not last forever and certainly, they do not last anywhere near that of a traditional nuclear or coal facility. What happens then? Recycled? NOPE, well maybe a small portion. The reality is that tens of thousands of machines and concrete will end up in landfills. Yes, landfills. Real green energy, huh! And, if you are a farmer and the BigWind company rolls belly up, who will pay for this? Will you feel safe farming below a dilapidated turbine? Of course not….
…Germany now has 29,000 wind towers. The nightmare of scrappage and decontamination has already started, with 250MW decommissioned last year. Close to 10,000 towers must be decommissioned by 2023. One tactic has been to ship the toxic parts and rubble to corrupt African states to deal with. As for the US, it will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material alone to dispose of by 2040, blades being a particularly enduring space-age construct. …
There’s some public-record material about decommissioning US wind farms, and it’s not reassuring. In Minnesota, the ten-year-old Nobles Wind farm has 134 turbines of about 1.5MW and is operated by Xcel Energy. Xcel estimates a cost for scrapping each turbine at up to $US530,000, or $US71million total. Each turbine has a tip height of 120 metres. Just to scrap one 40m blade involves crunching composite material weighing more than 6 tonnes. The turbines themselves contain a smorgasbord of toxic plastics, oils, lubricants, metals and fibreglass.
As American Experiment points out, even $US71million doesn’t finance a thorough clean-up. The contracts oblige Xcel to restore the land to a depth of only 4 feet, i.e. about one metre, whereas the foundations go down 5 metres. Moreover, underneath the 56 square miles of this Minnesota wind farm is 140km of cabling and pipes. The documents don’t say if the cables would stay or go. But Palmer’s Creek, another wind farm in Minnesota with 18 turbines, will be allowed to leave cables in situ below four feet.
As to local terms, the Australian Clean Energy Council says:
Decommissioning means that the wind turbines, site office and any other ancillary infrastructure is removed from the site, and roads and foundation pads are covered and revegetated, allowing land to be returned to its former use.’ Elsewhere the council says, ‘Typical landowner contracts require that the turbine is removed from its concrete foundation, and that the turbine site is covered in topsoil so that farming activities can continue. (My emphases. Would government greenies allow a decommissioned mine a similar latitude?)….
What if the Operator goes into liquidation? This is perhaps one of the major potential risks of entering into any wind farm agreement. If the company that you enter into the agreement with (or its successor if they sell the rights) goes into liquidation, then there may be insufficient funds to de-commission the plant, and therefore the items could be left in place, potentially in a state of disrepair. If the equipment had value it would probably mean that it would be removed. There is a real risk however that useless equipment could be left on the property at the end of the Lease.
Others add that landowners have no title over abandoned wind farm material and can’t even sell it to defray their own clean-up costs….
The decommissioning issue will generate a new set of horror stories in the decade to come. Count on it.