Germany’s wind energy mess: As subsidies expire, thousands Of turbines to close

Preface. This means that the talk about renewables being so much cheaper than anything else isn’t necessarily true.  If wind were profitable, more turbines would be built to replace the old ones  without subsidies needed. Unless they can be dumped in the 3rd world, they’ll be modern civilizations Easter Head icons.

Summary: A large number of Germany’s 29,000 turbines are approaching 20-years-old and for the most part, they are outdated [my note: 20 years is the lifespan of wind turbines]. The generous subsidies granted at the time of their installation are slated to expire soon and thus make them unprofitable. By 2020, 5,700 turbines with an installed capacity of 45 GW will see their subsidies run out. And after 2020, thousands of these turbines will lose their subsidies with each passing year, which means they will be taken offline and mothballed. So with new turbines coming online only slowly, it’s entirely possible that wind energy output in Germany will decline in the coming years.

It’s impossible to recycle composite materials because the large blades are made of fiberglass composite materials whose components cannot be separated from each other. Burning the blades is extremely difficult, toxic, and energy-intensive. So naturally, there’s a huge incentive for German wind park operators to dump the old contraptions onto third-world countries, and to let them deal later with the garbage.

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April 23, 2018. Germany’s wind energy mess: As subsidies expire, thousands of turbines to close. Climate Change Dispatch.

As older turbines see subsidies expire, thousands are expected to be taken offline due to lack of profitability.

Green nightmare: Wind park operators eye shipping thousands of tons of wind turbine litter to third world countries – and leaving their concrete rubbish in the ground.

The Swiss national daily Baseler Zeitung here recently reported how Germany’s wind industry is facing a potential “abandonment”.

Approvals tougher to get

This is yet another blow to Germany’s Energiewende (transition to green energies). A few days ago, I reported here how the German solar industry had seen a monumental jobs’ bloodbath and investments have been slashed to a tiny fraction of what they once were.

Over the years, Germany has made approvals for new wind parks more difficult as the country reels from an unstable power grid and growing protests against the blighted landscapes and health hazards.

Now that the wind energy boom has ended, the Baseler Zeitung reports that “the shutdown of numerous wind turbines could soon lead to a drop in production” after having seen years of ruddy growth.

Subsidies for old turbines run out

Today a large number of Germany’s 29,000 total turbines nationwide are approaching 20-years-old and for the most part, they are outdated.

Worse: the generous subsidies granted at the time of their installation are slated to expire soon and thus make them unprofitable.

After 2020, thousands of these turbines will lose their subsidies with each passing year, which means they will be taken offline and mothballed.

The Baseler Zeitung writes:

The Baseler Zeitung adds that some 5,700 plants with an installed capacity of 45 GW will see their subsidies run out by 2020.  In the following years, it will be between 2000 and 3000 GW, for which the state subsidization is eliminated. The German Wind Energy Association estimates that by 2023 around 14,000 MW of installed capacity will lose production, which is more than a quarter of German wind power capacity on land.  According to the German Wind Energy Association, installed capacity per megawatt is expected to cost 30,000 euros.

The Swiss daily reports further:  So with new turbines coming online only slowly, it’s entirely possible that wind energy output in Germany will recede in the coming years, thus making the country appear even less serious about climate protection.

Wind turbine dump in Africa?

So what happens to the old turbines that will get taken offline?

Wind park owners hope to send their scrapped wind turbine clunkers to third-world buyers, Africa for example. But if these buyers instead opt for new energy systems, then German wind park operators will be forced to dismantle and recycle them – a costly endeavor, reports the Baseler Zeitung.

Impossible to recycle composite materials

The problem here is the large blades, which are made of fiberglass composite materials and whose components cannot be separated from each other.  Burning the blades is extremely difficult, toxic, and energy-intensive.

So naturally, there’s a huge incentive for German wind park operators to dump the old contraptions onto third-world countries, and to let them deal later with the garbage.

Sweeping garbage under the rug

Next, the Baseler Zeitung brings up the disposal of the massive 3,000-tonne reinforced concrete turbine base, which according to German law must be removed. The complete removal of the concrete base can quickly cost hundreds of thousands of euros.

Some of these concrete bases reach depths of 20 meters and penetrate multiple ground layers, the Baseler Zeitung reports, adding:

Already wind park operators are circumventing this huge expense by only removing the top two meters of the concrete and steel base, and then hiding the rest with a layer of soil, the Baseler writes.

In the end, most of the concrete base will remain as garbage buried in the ground, and the above-ground turbine litter will likely get shipped to third-world countries.

That’s Germany’s Energiewende and contribution to protecting the environment and climate!

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8 Responses to Germany’s wind energy mess: As subsidies expire, thousands Of turbines to close

  1. Jeff W. says:

    Yeah, appears to be a CCD site:

    That said, Basler Zetung [1] seems respectable enough. Also other news sites have reported on the disposal issue:


  2. Hmm… “…5,700 turbines with an installed capacity of 45 MW…” 45,000,000/5,700=7,895 watts of capacity for each turbine. That’s clearly nonsense even for 20 year old turbines. As a point of reference, the wind farm in Altamont Pass in California was commissioned in 1981 and has 4,930 operational turbines with a nameplate capacity of 576 MW, or about 117,000 watts per turbine. These turbines are approaching 40 years old. A lot of the “information” in the cited article is numeric and having such a clearly non-credible number up front destroys the credibility of the article. While I don’t necessarily reject the conclusions, I don’t accept the evidence that this article presumes to provide.

    • energyskeptic says:

      Read this article if you want to know more about wind turbine lifespans: Davidsson, S., Höök, M., Wall, G. 2012. A review of life cycle assessments on wind energy systems. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

      Also, the wiki article you cite goes on to say “Considered largely obsolete, these numerous small turbines are being gradually replaced with much larger and more cost-effective units. As of 2010, a settlement has been reached between the Audubon Society, Californians for Renewable Energy and NextEra Energy Resources (who operate some 5,000 turbines in the area). Nearly half of the smaller turbines will be replaced by newer, more bird-friendly models. The project was expected to be complete by 2015…In 2015, NextEra – which owns some of the 100kw Kenetech/US Windpower older turbines installed during the 1980s – agreed to remove the machines and replace them with 48 new model wind turbines….Altamont Winds Inc (AWI)’s 83MW of 100kW Kenetech turbines are being taken down. These are older models with lattice towers. It has been proposed to replace them with 27 turbines with rated capacity of 2.1MW each (56.7MW total)”

      A 904 page report ” Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area Repowering” says that “Because of their age, design, and large number, the existing turbines present a greater risk.” They go on to say “In general, the current operating facilities consist of old generation turbines with limited electrical generation capacity (i.e. up to 300 kilovolts).

      • Yes, but that doesn’t address the numbers in the article you’re citing, which simply cannot be accurate. As I said, I don’t necessarily reject the conclusions but I’m very skeptical about the article because of this very clear error.

        • energyskeptic says:

          Of course you are right! I’m sure the article meant to say gigawatt GW, not MW

          • I don’t think that’s right either. I’m not aware of onshore turbines with nameplate capacities of 7.9 MW even now, let alone 20 years ago. I have no idea where they got that number.

  3. *Runaway Hothouse Mass Extinction Is Unstoppable And Irreversible*
    It’s been 10 years since most people found out about global warming. It’s been 24 years since the Conference of Parties. COP24 is where rich and famous people try to solve climate change.
    *Total world energy growth = 14% per decade*

    2007 = 115 Mtoe

    2017 = 135 Mtoe

    20 Mtoe/decade = 14% increase

    Our total energy growth per decade is 14% or 20 Mtoe/10yrs.

    Source: BP 2018 Energy Review, page 8

    *Renewable Energy*

    2007 = 1% of total energy use

    2017 = 3.6% of total energy use

    Renewable Growth = 3%/decade

    How long until renewables = 100% energy use?

    *Answer:* never

    Just look at the chart below, do you see the thin dark orange sliver? It will take at least 70 years for that dark orange color to replace all the other colors on the graph, according to Vaclav Smil. By looking at this graph, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.


    2007 = 300 Gtons/yr

    2017 = 334 Gtons/yr

    Growth = 10%/decade

    Source: BP 2018 Energy Review, page 49

    **Runaway Tipping Points = Runaway Mass Extinction**

    Every 10 years = 14% energy growth + 10% emissions growth.

    Many scientists agree with Claire Fyson:

    We must reduce energy emissions 50% in 10 yrs to avoid 1.5 C.

    Many scientists agree with Stefan Rahmstorf:

    We must reduce energy emissions 100% in 20 yrs to avoid 2.0 C.

    Hans Schellnhuber says that cascading runaway hothouse begins when 5 major tipping points are triggered between 1.5 – 2.0 C.

    Cascading only means the triggering of more than one tipping point.

    Energy emissions/demand are growing between 10-14%/decade

    They must decrease 50%/decade for life on earth to continue.

    Our whole world depends on annual growth of 2% per year. Your job, your bank, your pension, your government all depend on growth.

    We have 3 weeks of riots in France over gas prices. People in the country can’t afford higher gas prices, like people in the city can.


    Water shortages could affect 5bn people by 2050, UN report warns

    By 2020 about 30-40% of the world will have water scarcity, and according to the researchers, climate change can make this even worse.

    With only 7% of the world’s freshwater, China plans to produce 807 million gallons a day from desalination by 2020, roughly quadruple the country’s current capacity.

    By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions.

    There will be about 1 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by 2025 and global agriculture alone will require another 1 trillion cubic meters of water per year (equal to the annual flow of 20 Niles or 100 Colorado Rivers).

    UN studies project that 30 nations will be water scarce in 2025, up from 20 in 1990.

    According to the U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security, by 2030 humanity’s “annual global water requirements” will exceed “current sustainable water supplies” by 40%.

    The global middle class will surge from 1.8 to 4.9 billion by 2030, which will result in a significant increase in freshwater consumption.

    Water demand in India will reach 1.5 trillion cubic meters in 2030 while India’s current water supply is only 740 billion cubic meters.

    If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030.

    By 2035, the world’s energy consumption will increase by 35 percent, which in turn will increase water use by 15 percent according to the International Energy Agency.

    By the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.

    The number of people living in river basins under severe water stress is projected to reach 3.9 billion by 2050, totaling over 40% of the world’s population.

    Compared to today, five times as much land is likely to be under “extreme drought” by 2050.

    Feeding 9 billion people by 2050, will require a 60 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals.

    Water demand is projected to grow by 55 percent by 2050 (including a 400-percent rise in manufacturing water demand).

    By 2050, 1 in 5 developing countries will face water shortages (UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization).

    Between 2050 and 2100, there is an 85 percent chance of a drought in the Central Plains and Southwestern United States lasting 35 years or more.

    If farmers in Kansas keep irrigating at present rates, 69 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer will be gone in 50 years.


    Britain facing food crisis as world’s soil ‘vanishes in 60 years’ – Telegraph

    Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues – Sciam

    We need to protect the world’s soil before it’s too late – Popular Science

    Soil erosion – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

    *Just For Fun*

    please note: Mtoe = not your mom’s camel toe.

    The only way to mitigate collapse is to carbon tax the shit out of meat and the rich.

    They won’t do it unless carbon taxes are 100% private.

    They’re right, we’ve been over-conditioned by social media for ideological addiction.

    There is no uncorrupt form of government that has secrets. Secrets are for the rich and gov-tards.

    The left is preventing progress on this issue as well as the right.

    We don’t have time for war on 2 fronts, this is it, it’s now or never.

    We need 100% private carbon dividends to fund a universal basic income and free health/education in Africa instead of war and slavery.

    I know how to do this because I once learned how to save my allowance as a kid.

    • energyskeptic says:

      Thanks for all the links above! The way I see it is that the most immediate crisis is energy decline. Take for instance the latest IEA 2018 WEO, which says that oil is declining at 8% a year, and at best could be brought up to declining 4% a year if oil companies spend trillions exploring and drilling. Greenhouse gas emissions will plummet! Starting sometime between now and 2025, oil, coal, and natural gas will plummet 6% a year exponentially (so after 5 years oil will decline at 7% a year, 10 years 8% and so on). After 16 years we’ll have 10% of the oil we were once using. So the threat of a hothouse earth simply doesn’t exist. The IPCC has never had a single model for declining fossil fuels because all of their models assume we will burn them at exponentially increasing rates until 2400. We should already be suffering from topsoil, aquifer, and all the other problems, but fossils have hidden the extent of the hole we’re in. Out of water? Drill a mile down to find more. Topsoil gone? dump tons of fertilizer on it. I’m just floored at how soon peak oil is coming and it is the least feared and talked about catastrophe. It will lower the carrying capacity of earth from 7.5+ billion to 1 billion over the next 30-60 years. Geologists who plugged realistic numbers of fossil reserves into the IPCC model on average see a 4.5 future at worst.