There are many wind farm decommissioning studies publicly available since decommissioning studies are required by most local governments prior to construction. This review examines five in-depth reports published between 2007 and 2012. These reports were selected because they contain highly detailed costing and salvage information along with descriptions of project activities thus allowing the reader to delve into the assumptions supporting the estimates.
Claims are sometimes made that the salvage value of turbines offsets the cost of decommissioning so that no financial assurances are needed, particularly early in the life of the turbines. However, the estimated cost of decommissioning exceeded the salvage value in 4 of the 5 studies. Assuming that costs minus salvage values are similar to those reported in these studies, the overall net cost to decommission a 100 turbine wind farm would be in the neighborhood of $3 million. Of course the exact cost is dependent on many complex factors so this is just an average. Some of the studies suggest a much higher price-tag and others suggest a lower net cost.
What accounts for the cost of decommissioning?
What accounts for the cost of decommissioning? About one third of the cost of decommissioning a wind farm is the dismantling of each WECS. Another third of the cost is project management and the cost of bringing in and assembling the cranes necessary to safety dismantle the WECS. It is not as simple as applying explosives as suggested by a leaseholder in the movie Windfall. The turbine contains hundreds of gallons of lubricants and toxic rare earth metals that must be carefully disposed. The final third of the cost is related to site preparation (similar to preparation during construction), foundation removal and dismantling the electrical systems including substations if required.
Many readers may have seen the news stories regarding the two Falmouth, MA turbines. Headlines show that the town is voting to raise millions of dollars to remove the turbines just a couple of years after installation. Why are the numbers for these other projects so much lower than Falmouth? Come to the May 7th Tipton County CRD Meetings to get the whole story about wind farm decommissioning.