Frank Johannes Kroll is the chairman of the board of the Special Association for Dismantling, Dismantling and Repowering, RDR Wind, Annette Nuesslein is the first deputy of the council. In 2020, RDR Wind, in cooperation with the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) and the Federal Environment Agency, created a standard for good and cost-effective dismantling, disposal and recycling of old wind farms, the Din Spec 4866. Now RDR Wind is preparing with these partners and in coordination with the wind energy industry, a DIN standard for decommissioning and recycling. You should be the industry last but not least, guaranteeing a high level of safety, even in the event of the replacement of old wind turbines with more powerful ones, and promoting economic success.
What security do you mean?
Frank J. Kroll: “A DIN standard is a standard developed by the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) in Berlin. Unify standards for products and processes, such as quality, minimum performance, properties, dimensions, etc. ” – according to DIN. In practice, when awarding contracts or tenders, customers can ensure that there is no unfair price dumping and that service providers have no chance by limiting workplace safety regulations.
This creates transparency, improves competition and promotes innovation. After all, service provider companies can and should actively and clearly differentiate themselves in the market and are happy to do so.
Will the new standard, now still in the form of Din Spec 4866, also prevail across Europe?
Annette Nuesslein: The Din Spec 4866 has given important impulses – including European ones – and created benchmarks. The European association for wind energy, Wind Europe, is also very active in the field of standardization. We are actively pursuing this development in coordination with DIN. And of course, like RDR Wind, we are also joining Wind Europe 2021 in calling for a European ban on landfilling of rotor blades. In terms of the recycling economy, which is becoming increasingly important in Europe too, recyclable materials do not go to landfill!
Frank J. Kroll: We know that the Din Spec 4866 has already gained relevance, especially for the Spanish market. Spanish customers of member companies came to Germany to see local deconstruction and recycling solutions. The considerations aim to prepare there a standard similar to the one we are developing in Germany. Also in Austria, companies are showing that they or their customers are very happy to use Din Spec 4866 to evaluate a service provider’s service catalog for decommissioning projects.
Does this also open up export opportunities for German demolition or recycling companies?
Frank J. Kroll: Basically yes. However, this will tend to affect the export of skills. Because no customer will order a crane company from Germany to the construction site in Spain or Austria. This will continue to be done locally. But I see that an export of consultancy services by German companies is being promoted.
In practice, the development of rotor blade recycling has become a European-wide project in view of the masses of large-scale industrial blades. We have already mastered the recycling of fiberglass materials or carbon fiber composite materials. We are also able to recycle GRP on a laboratory scale or at a pilot plant level.
… the fiberglass material, GRP, from which the rotor blades are made …
Frank J. Kroll: On a large industrial scale, these processes need to be further developed and proven economically viable.
Industry in Europe is now optimizing the known recycling processes. However, full-scale recycling of rotor blades on a large scale will only become established when there is demand for glass fiber recycling. It is clear that the question will come: We have heard from our member companies that even customers from abroad in the future only want to recycle rotor blade materials.
In general, it only becomes economical with carbon fiber plastic, CFRP. This is about 20 times more expensive than GRP and is used in higher quality. A good comparison between CFRP and GRP ranges from “waterproof” to “bulletproof”. The recovery of glass fibers for the construction of new rotor blades does not currently make any economic sense.
With components being larger, older rotor blades are a growing concern given their enormous mass of material. When will recycling companies use the results of the recycling research “Developing Disassembly and Recycling Standards for Rotor Blades”?
Annette Nuesslein: On 27 January 2022, the final technical discussion of the Federal Environment Agency took place with numerous representatives of the sector. Our member companies and partner associations also participated and commented on the interim results. It was important. The publication of the final study by the Federal Environment Agency will certainly take a few more months. It will then be made available free of charge on the website of the Federal Environment Agency.
The continuation of the activity is even more interesting due to the high electricity trading prices and the long approval processes in progress: the repowering projects have been postponed. Will the consistently high electricity trading prices also make repowering more attractive?
Annette Nuesslein: In view of the dramatic war in Ukraine, issues of energy supply and energy security are being raised around the world. Renewable energies will play a decisive role in this. Repowering will also have to be accelerated significantly in Germany. This is especially true for the windy federal Länder. We need the newest and most powerful systems in the ground area.
Frank J. Kroll: After all, repowering means that it is possible to generate a multiple of electricity with an existing permit. Large park managers are therefore little affected by volatility, i.e. price fluctuations on the electricity markets, and rather want to increase their production with modern and much larger systems. A private operator or smaller investor will tend to ensure that their system can continue to run economically for another two years at good prices.
However, as any investment in the park pays off better for larger park managers than simply continuing the business and repowering will certainly be on the agenda, the good prices in the electricity market could also lead to so-called PPAs or deals. of electricity supply for the renewal of wind farms. An acceleration of repowering can also result from the current increase in raw material costs. If part of the dismantling costs could be covered by the proceeds from the sale of steel scrap on the scrap markets, this could become a driving factor for the replacement of the system. With prices like in the summer of 2021, an impressive 320 euros per ton of steel, the price of the raw material offers an additional incentive to start dismantling.
How do RDR companies help repowering have an even faster chance?
Frank J. Kroll: As we have noticed, our member companies are becoming more and more willing to have a more widespread geographical presence, even abroad. The demolition market here has a national character, extending from Rhineland-Palatinate to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and from Upper Palatinate to Schleswig-Holstein.
The abilities of the demolition and recycling suppliers have now been developed, their experience has grown, the specialized personnel have been qualified. Our member companies have also been able to implement new decommissioning methods, such as exploding plant structures. You have achieved further cost optimization through more efficient dismantling and research projects or registered patents.
To what extent are there now attractive global offers for wind farm investors that make repowering more attractive, faster, cheaper and safer?
Frank J. Kroll: A distinction must be made here between the largest investor, the community wind farm and the individual system. We know from the circle of shareholders that the desire for a general contractor is on the rise. Customers want to put together the order for dismantling, logistics, recycling and disposal. They expect service providers to act as solution providers for different challenges on site. Our member companies implement it because solution providers reduce the number of interfaces. A practical example: if an earthmover also builds the access road to the crane parking areas and stays in place for repowering, there will be only one travel cost. Better utilization of the demolition company’s machinery is also a financial benefit.
But it is also important that our technology niche in the wind sector acquires greater economic and professional relevance in the future. There will still be plenty of room for other companies in the future. Therefore, any innovative company or research institution, as well as any service provider, is welcome to join our industry association. Our association work also includes building bridges with other companies and associations – sometimes a personal meeting in our association is more useful for future business or a research initiative than searching on the Internet. Anyone who wants to develop further with us will find in RDR Wind a safe haven with open and innovative companies, service providers, universities and research institutes.
This is the second part of the interview with RDR Wind that has just appeared in our print magazine. This time you will find a special section on dismantling and repowering wind farms in Germany.
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