There is a major challenge confronting European wind energy – and it is a challenge the industry and policy-makers must face before it is too late. Back in 2000, wind power accounted for only 12 GW of power in Europe. Since then, the industry has spent years growing, maturing, and becoming one of the great European success stories of recent times. By summer 2019, an incredible 194 GW of wind power has been installed. Today, more than 100,000 wind turbines across the continent form the backbone of an industry that already supports 300,000 European jobs. And these numbers are set to grow, with the right policy framework in place. The IEA forecasts that wind farm plants will be the leading form of European power generation by 2027.
On the surface, there is a lot to be happy about.
But within the next 15 years, a large section of Europe’s wind turbines will come to the end of its projected lifetime. And while this is a natural part of the life-cycle for any energy technology, the wind power industry cannot afford to be complacent about what this loss will mean. To put it into perspective: in the next 5 years alone, 22 GW of Europe’s wind farms will reach 20 years of age. This is over ten per cent of Europe’s wind farm capacity, and it could easily be removed from our energy mix if we fail to address the end-of-life issue. This will impact on our ability to reach both European and national renewable energy targets.
The time has come to make serious, informed decisions about lifetime extension and repowering, decommissioning and recycling. These decisions will need to be site-specific, project-specific, and country-specific. This is a reality our industry has been addressing for a number of years now. Over 50 repowered projects have already taken place across Europe.
But it’s not simply a question for industry: it’s mainly a question of policy.
When the European Commission recently published its recommendations on European countries’ draft National Energy and Climate Plans, repowering was rightly highlighted as one of the most important means through which Europe can achieve its climate ambitions. Yet repowering is mentioned in only 6 of the National Plans, and without substantial detail. National Governments now have only a few months to finalise the Plans and ensure they become genuine investment brochures for renewables. Repowering and lifetime extension will be an essential part of any workable energy strategy in line with the increased European renewable energy goal of 32% for 2030.
On 5 September, WindEurope’s End-of-Life Issues and Strategies (EoLIS) seminar in Belgium will outline a coordinated, industry-wide approach to the end-of-life challenge. As the first event of its kind to be dedicated exclusively to end-of-life issues, this seminar will gather speakers from the worlds of policy, academia, industry and more to draw up a clear solution to the end-of-life challenge.
We have spent decades building a better future for Europe. If we fail to act now, we risk losing it.
Find out more about WindEurope’s End-of-Life Issues and Strategies (EoLIS) seminar.