Repowering: Fewer Wind Turbines for More Power

By ENGIE - 05 October 2023 - 10:20

Operations involving dismantling old wind turbines and replacing them with more efficient ones are set to increase in Europe—providing an excellent opportunity for ENGIE as it aims for 58% renewable capacity in its energy production by 2030.


Wind turbines have a lifespan of 15 to 25 years. "Once a turbine has reached the end of its lifecycle, we are faced with three possibilities: extend its lifespan by about three to five years   depending on the condition of the park, carry out a repowering operation, or if these two alternatives are not feasible, dismantle the park," explains Thomas Fabritius, VP of Operations for Renewables Europe.


Repowering? This term refers to the replacement of old wind turbines with more efficient models, allowing for an increase in a park's production without requiring additional land, and in some cases, even using less of the existing plot. "The increase in installed power is significant, ranging from +60% to +70% on average," emphasizes Thomas Fabritius. It's a sustainable approach contributing to ENGIE's objective of producing 80 GW of renewable energy by 2030 (compared to 38 GW today).



What Happens to Wind Turbines When They Reach the End of Their Life?

When They Reach the End of Their Life? 
From 2025, hundreds of wind turbines will reach the end of their life each year. ENGIE supports regulatory initiatives to strengthen end-of-life management and adopts the following strategy:

  • • Extend the lifespan of the turbine when possible.
  • • If this option is not economically viable, replace the turbine through a repowering operation.
  • • As a last resort, dismantle the turbine without replacement. 

In the latter two cases, ENGIE recycles an average of 90% of the components, a ratio expected to increase in the coming years.

The repowering market is set to grow significantly in the near future in Europe, where the first installations date back to the 1990s, with Denmark as a pioneering country. This presents a real opportunity for ENGIE, the fourth-largest wind energy operator in the Old Continent with a portfolio of 6.6 GW. "Currently, about fifty of our parks (out of a total of 400), representing a capacity of 2 GW, are under analysis and could be renewed in the coming years. This accounts for 10% of our European portfolio," says Thomas Fabritius. The Group has already launched initial projects in France (Widehem Park) and Germany (Lövenich and Querstedt Parks), with more planned in Italy and Belgium.



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Dismantling and Recycling

There are numerous challenges for the Group. "Dismantling wind turbines is a new activity, and each project is an opportunity for our teams to learn. We must capitalize on the experience gained from the initial projects to improve, especially in terms of dismantling installations while adhering to health and safety regulations, as these are high-risk operations with limited prior experience," explains Thomas Fabritius.


Repowering is not solely limited to wind farms. It will soon also apply to the photovoltaic industry. Today's solar panels are much more efficient than those from a decade ago. "In France, we have 16 photovoltaic sites that are over twelve years old, with a capacity of about 300 MW," notes Thomas Fabritius. "In about ten years, the question of replacing these installations will arise." Another market where ENGIE is well positioned.