Outside the town of Velm-Götzendorf on the Austria-Slovakia border, a year-long project to reboot a quarter-century-old wind farm came to an end in January. The site’s 10 turbines were razed to the ground and replaced with just four. But the power generation capacity remained essentially the same. Velm-Götzendorf is the first of six “repowering” projects that London-listed energy group ContourGlobal plans to carry out on ageing Austrian wind farms over the coming three years, cutting turbine numbers from 40 to 30, while almost doubling production. “When we look particularly at those older vintage assets, we see there is an opportunity,” says Karl Schnadt, ContourGlobal’s chief operating officer. “All over Europe there is an ageing fleet.” The group’s plans underline a growing trend to replace old wind farms in Europe and beyond, by dismantling maturing turbines and installing more efficient models with taller towers and longer blades. Europe has become more reliant on wind. The power source is set to become the largest in the EU by installed capacity this year, overtaking gas. But many of the continent’s turbines are old and approaching the 20-25 year point that generally marks the end of wind farms’ operational lives. In Spain 25 per cent of the fleet is over 15 years old; in Germany 35 per cent has hit this benchmark while in Denmark the percentage is more than half. These sites are often located in prime sites for wind turbines, having been among the first sites selected for wind farms, and so present a growing opportunity for developers and equipment manufacturers to renew their fleets.
FT 12th March 2019 read more »