What happens to old wind turbines?
The first industrial-scale wind turbines were built in Germany more than 25 years ago. In 2000, the German parliament passed the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which provided for a subsidy period of 20 years for wind turbines. Due to this limited subsidy period, many wind turbines are currently threatened with decommissioning, even though they are still producing electricity and, from a technical point of view, could remain in operation for a long time without any problems. But after 20 years, operators of wind turbines must be prepared for the fact that the remuneration for the electricity generated will largely cease via the so-called EEG levy. This levy is added to the end consumer's electricity bill and is used to promote the construction of wind and photovoltaic plants. In July 2022, the EEG levy is now to be abolished altogether according to plans of the “traffic light” government due to the increase in electricity prices. After that, the German government wants to continue paying operators successively decreasing subsidy rates for a limited period.
After the expiration of the subsidy, operators of wind turbines will have to finance them mainly through the price of electricity on the stock exchange. It is often no longer profitable to continue operating the plants, because wind turbines in Germany must undergo a comprehensive inspection after 20 years of operation, which means additional costs for the operators.
However, phasing out old wind turbines can make sense if they are subsequently replaced with new and more efficient models: Wind turbines from the 1990s, for example, have an annual output of around 500-800 gigawatts, while the latest turbines achieve 4-6 megawatts per year. This means that today, one new wind turbine can replace 6 old turbines.
Fortunately, the worn-out wind turbines can be recycled well and profitably: they consist of about 90 percent raw materials such as steel, copper, and other precious metals, which can be remelted and further processed. The concrete in the foundation is crushed and can then be used in road construction.
https://www.rbb24.de/wirtschaft/beitrag/2021/09/brandenburg-windkraftanlagen-windraeder-lebensdauer-rueckbau-recycling.html, accessed: 3/22/2022 at 1 p.m.
https://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/technologie/windkraft-abbau-windraeder-foerderung-ausgelaufen-eeg-101.html, accessed: 3/22/2022 at 3 p.m.
https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/recycling-alter-windkraftanlagen-wie-die-muehlen-zermahlen-werden/27067744.html, accessed: 3/22/2022 at 3:30 p.m.