Report: Wind turbine demolition costs have remained the same

Wind power is now being built rapidly in Finland. Depending on the time of construction, the lifespan of wind turbines varies from 20-25 years to even more than 35 years. Only individual turbines will be dismantled in Finland in the 2020s, but the pace of dismantling is expected to accelerate in the late 2030s. The owner of the turbines is responsible for dismantling, the costs of demolition and the restoration of the area. According to the demolition cost survey commissioned by the Finnish Wind Power Association (FWPA), demolition costs have not increased in the last decade.

According to the report made by AFRY, the cost of dismantling one steel tower wind turbine is 10,000 – 85,000 euros, taking into account the sales revenue of the recycled material, when a total of ten wind turbines are dismantled at the same time. A steel tower is clearly the most common type of wind turbine tower in Finland.

“We also figured out the demolition costs about a decade ago, and even though tower sizes have increased, the magnitude of the costs has remained the same. The lower end of costs, on the other hand, has significantly decreased with the increase in the value of recycled steel and certainly also with learning. The costs are naturally associated with uncertainty when they are estimated about two decades from now, but the magnitude categories are well under control,” says FWPA’s operational director Heidi Paalatie.

Wind turbines always produce valuable demolition waste, such as steel and copper. The amount of material to be sold depends on the structure of the turbine and especially its tower. The value of the material to be sold depends on the market prices at the time of demolition, but the value of recycled materials can be assumed to increase in the coming decades. The income from the material sold covers part of the demolition costs, but the uncertainties related to the value of the materials cause a large range of variation in the estimate of the wind turbine’s demolition costs.

The wind turbine is dismantled in the reverse order of its construction, although during the dismantling phase the parts of the turbine do not need to be protected and handled as carefully as during the construction phase of the turbine. Demolition also basically requires the use of a crane, and bringing the crane to the area is one of the biggest expenses of the demolition project. For this reason, the aim is always to dismantle several turbines at the same time, and the report has calculated the demolition cost for one turbine in a project where total of ten turbines are dismantled.

The owner of the wind turbines is responsible for dismantling

The owner of the wind turbines at the time of dismantling is responsible for dismantling the turbines and the costs. Different types of demolition bonds are typically placed as security for the landowner in case of the risk that the demolition of the turbines would remain the responsibility of the landowner, even though this is unlikely.

The recycling rate of the wind power turbine is high, depending on the calculations and the turbine, about 90 percent. A circular economy solution also exists in Finland for wind turbine blades made of plastic composite: plastic composite waste from wind turbines as well as from other sources (e.g. boats, skis, poles, industrial pipes and tanks) can be delivered to Finnsement’s Lappeenranta factory to be used as energy and raw material in cement production.

Download the report (in Finnish)

Download the infographic (in Finnish)

Read more about the recycling of wind turbines (in Finnish)