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Repowering can make a big difference

In Europe, the first generation of wind farms is aging. One way to deal with the old turbines is repowering, meaning replacing old wind turbines with new, more efficient turbines. There is still great potential there.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay

WindEurope estimates that 38 GW of onshore wind capacity from today will reach the end of its normal 20-year operating life by 2025. When wind farms turn 20, there are three ways to deal with them: life extension, decommissioning, or repowering.

Repowering, in particular, still has a lot of untapped potential: on average, repowering more than doubles a wind farm's generating capacity and triples its electricity production, as the new turbines generate more electricity per unit of power. And that's with an average 27% reduction in the number of turbines. WindEurope expects more than 20 GW of onshore wind farms to be repowered in the next ten years.

Repowering is a particularly effective and important measure because the oldest wind farms in Europe are located in places with the best wind conditions. So more effective turbines with the latest technology could generate much more electricity here, however, currently less than 10% of wind turbines that reach the end of their life are replaced through repowering. Operators are discouraged by lengthy and complex permitting processes and changing legislation. Instead, most onshore wind farms now reaching 20 years of age are getting life extensions.

Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, is therefore critizising European governments, saying, "Permitting for repowering is just way too slow and complicated."

Yet bare numbers show how effective repowering can be: At a wind farm in Malpica in Galicia, Spain, the number of turbines went from 69 to 7, while actual electricity generation doubled. In the Netherlands, the Windplan Groen project in Flevoland province is currently being repowered. The area previously had 98 turbines with a total capacity of 168 MW. These are now being replaced by 90 more powerful turbines, bringing the total capacity of the wind farm to around 500 MW - enough to supply the entire province with electricity.

Windfair Editors
WindEurope, repowering, wind farm, onshore, potential, MW, turbine, efficient, replacing, untapped, MW, Spain, Netherlands, region

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