How much to take down a wind turbine?

Bonanza in scrap, or millions to demolish?
Bonanza in scrap, or millions to demolish?

Tom Collins, Farmers Forum, October 2014
Scaremongers say it will cost millions
Brinston–While some critics of wind turbines howl that the cost of the eventual teardown of a turbine is astronomical, the actual cost today would be $30,000 to $100,000, per turbine.
The bigger issue is, who is going to pay for it.
Municipalities are on the hook to ensure companies tear down or, in industry jargon, decommission a turbine, unless they’ve got a binding agreement with the wind power company. Some municipalities demand from wind turbine companies ongoing payments into protected (or escrow) accounts or bonds to set money aside annually to pay for decommissioning.
Some municipalities require a letter of intent from wind turbine companies to ensure they will be responsible for decommissioning. Some municipalities have no agreement at all, including Wolfe Island, said its mayor, Denis Doyle. TransAlta communications manager Stacey Hatcher said the decommissioning plans are between the company and the landowner and because of that, the info is confidential. [See editor’s note #1]
The 86 turbines on Wolfe Island, on the St. Lawrence River at Kingston, were built by Canadian Hydro Developers, later purchased by Trans Alta and there is no bond or escrow account in place. The company does, however, reimburse the island about $100,000 per year for hosting the project. Based on current decommissioning projects around the world, it can cost $30,000 to $10,000 [sic] to dispose of a turbine. If it were to cost $50,000 to remove each turbine on Wolfe Island, it would cost $4.3 million to remove them all. Of course, that price goes up over time. [See Editor’s note #2] Hatcher said the company plans to repower or recontract when they [sic] current contracts are up.
There are 10 three-megawatt wind turbines at Brinston, between Kemptville and Winchester, and the power company ProWind [see Editor’s note #3] pays $1,000 per megawatt per year over the next 20 years into an escrow account that will rack up $600,000 to pay for decommissioning. [Editor’s note #4]
Windlectric Inc. wants to build 36 turbines on Amherst Island where Statec Consulting said that decommissioning costs are up to Windlectric. Typically, decommissioning will not remove all of the concrete base, but that’s only the first few feet of concrete that went into the ground. [We’re done adding editor’s notes at this point.]
One of the most infamous decomissionings involved 37 decrepit turbines in Hawaii that stood unused for six years before they were taken down in 2012. Tawhiri Power estimated that the take-down cost $30,000 per turbine. [OK, one more; see Editor’s note #5]
The seven-turbine community-owned Black Oak Wind Farm in New York State will start construction in late 2014. The decommissioning plan would currently cost about $55,883 per turbine, although the project expects to generate at least $50,000 per turbine by selling it as scrap metal. The municipality agreement means the power company must pay $140,000 per turbine in escrow but also means the payment can be reviewed and changed if decommissioning estimates change.
WCO Editor’s notes:
1. Many landowners were told that it was to their benefit to decommission the turbines themselves as there is so much scrap value in the turbines; this is untrue due to the quality of metal being used, and also the other costs of decommissioning such as crane rental, and disposal of the toxic components.
2. So, that would be the millions then…
3. ProWind, properly “Prowind,” does not own the Brinston project, and hasn’t for several years. It is now owned by EDP Renewables.
4. In the original negotiations with Prowind, the developer wanted the landowners and the municipality to be responsible for decommissioning costs. It was the local community group that brought these costs to the attention of the municipality, and played a significant role in the agreement now in place.
5. US dollars? Canadian dollars? Also, the size of the turbines and the machinery involved is a factor. The turbines erected in Hawaii over a decade again, and the turbines at Wolfe Island are now miniscule compared with the 500-foot-plus, 3 -MW behemoths being built and proposed.
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What's your reaction?


  • Richard Mann
    Posted October 11, 2014 1:51 pm 0Likes

    Noone wants to talk about the concrete foundation. That will not be removed. Not only do you have to break it up, you will not find anyone willing to take that waste material.
    The land will NOT be restored to original condition.
    By the way, not one *modern* turbine has been decommissioned yet.
    We don’t know until that happens….

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted October 11, 2014 5:14 pm 0Likes

      Write to the editor, Patrick Meagher, and lay out some facts. This article was lazily prepared, to what end, no one knows.

  • Bert Zegers
    Posted October 11, 2014 9:42 pm 0Likes

    Don’t count on scrap steel paying for decommissioning costs. By the time these turbines are decommissioned ( 15 to 20 years from now ) the scrap steel price will be low because there will be a lot of scrap steel (turbines and towers) on the market. The costs of taking them down and to cut them to transportable size, rebuild the site and so on will take the scrap metal money and a lot more.
    A huge cost will be the disposal of the blades. They cannot be recycled.
    And nobody wants them.
    I think relying on scrap metal paying for decommissioning is a mistake.
    Who ever ends up with the turbine is going to pay.
    What about getting a bylaw in place that prohibits the use of dynamite for decommissioning? and prohibits long time storage of blades on the decommissioning site or leaseholders property.

  • Barbara
    Posted October 12, 2014 12:15 pm 0Likes

    Perhaps the place to begin is what is Ontario law regarding structures built on private property and who are the parties responsible for removal of said structures?
    It’s unfortunate but there are many sloppy articles that have been written about IWT issues.

  • Rachel
    Posted October 13, 2014 10:21 am 0Likes

    I like Greyhighlands solution. Sell the leased land the abandoned turbine stands on to cover the costs. Municipal powers cover this.

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  • Barbara
    Posted October 14, 2014 12:08 pm 0Likes

    If I allow someone to build or install a structure on my land then why is it the responsibility of the local governments to remove such structures?
    Appears to be shifting landowners responsibility off on to the public? Makes good selling point to those who want to lease land but not be responsible.

  • Parker Gallant
    Posted October 14, 2014 3:32 pm 0Likes

    This article is a little old but is telling on how wind developers mask the true costs of decommissioning. In this case by about $10 million for a 124 wind turbine project:
    Look to be $100K per turbine back in 2008 and my guess is that the price would be higher today.

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