What Happens at the End of a Wind Turbine's Life

At the end of their 20 to 25-year operational life wind turbines can either be repowered or decommissioned.

Repowering

Repowering is basically replacing the existing wind turbines with new wind turbines.

If the owner of an existing wind development chose to repower a site they would have to prepare a fresh planning application. The new planning application would have to successfully go through the full planning process again before repowering could take place.

During the operational lifetime of a wind farm the wind turbine technology available will evolve and improve. The current experience of the wind industry is for repowered sites to consist of a reduction in wind turbine numbers and an increase in wind turbine size and overall generation capacity.

Decommissioning

One of the benefits of wind energy is that a wind turbine can be removed at the end of its operational life – this is known as decommissioning.

When a wind energy development gains planning permission planning conditions are put in place to ensure that the interests of local residents are safeguarded. One of the planning conditions will be for the owner of the wind energy development to return the land, on which the development is sited, back to an agreed state.

The precise details of decommissioning vary from site to site but it is likely to include removing all visible traces of the development such as turbines and onsite overhead cables. Site roads and tracks are often left in place while foundations tend to be removed to a certain level and covered by indigenous materials such as peat, stone or soil.