Research on remanufacturing as an end of life solution for wind turbine systems

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Amsterdam, 24 April 2018 - With a total installed wind capacity of around 540,000 MW in the world, the demand for maintenance, replacement and end-of-life solutions for turbine components is becoming increasingly important. The oldest wind turbines have been in operation for more than 30 years, but new wind turbines are added every day and more and more wind farms are appearing on land and offshore. In time, there are opportunities for a sustainable replacement market, in which Europe can lead the way. This makes remanufacturing of wind turbines the ultimate green solution.

Unlike normal recovery processes

Remanufacturing is the reconstruction of a product according to the specifications of the original manufactured product using a combination of remanufactured and new parts. It requires the remanufacturing or replacement of worn or obsolete components and modules. All parts that are subject to wear and tear that affect the performance or the expected lifetime of the whole are replaced. Remanufacturing is a form of a product recovery process that differs in its entirety from other recovery processes: a remanufactured machine must meet the same expectations as new machines. The total global network of remanufacturing technology and supply chain specialists has grown to an estimated market size of € 82.9 billion. The automotive industry counts heavily in this market because of its mature remanufacturing sector. The European wind sector can take the lead in the application of the remanufacturing concept in the global end-of-life strategy of wind energy.

Initiative supported

Initiated by ReMaTec, the world's largest knowledge and trading platform in the field of remanufacturing, the Dutch R&D establishment “ECN part of TNO” is launching an exploratory study into the possibilities of wind turbine remanufacturing. The exploratory research will be carried out by Jos Beurskens, former unit manager Renewable Energy at ECN and an authority in the Dutch wind industry. Beurskens received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oldenburg (D) for his unbridled efforts to promote wind energy research. He was praised for his broad overview and insight into technical developments in the field of wind energy. The research is supported by the industry associations Holland Home or Wind Energy (HHWE) and European Remanufacturing Council, as well as manufacturer and remanufacturer ZF Wind Power.

Investigate serial remanufacturing

The research focuses on serial remanufacturing of e.g. mechanical systems. The gearbox, main shaft, gears, brake discs, generator, vacuum engine, but also all electronic sensor equipment are suitable for this procedure.

Dr. Marc Langelaar, Business Unit Director Wind Energy at ECN part of TNO, explains what this research can bring to the wind sector. "Introducing remanufacturing as part of the end-of-life solutions for wind turbine systems enables the wind energy industry to make wind power technology even more sustainable than it already is, and it significantly contributes to a full cradle to cradle system." Langelaar continues, "Do not forget the additional benefits of further cost savings, material savings and a reduction of the payback time of a wind turbine installation."

Focus areas wind turbines

The research will look at the following aspects:

  • Applicability of "remanufactured" parts and components in the wind energy industry
  • Savings potential of critical materials
  • Impact on the energy payback time of wind turbines as an indicator for the ultimate renewability of the technology
  • Influence on the energy generation costs over the entire lifetime (LCoE) of wind energy systems.

Results explained

In the third quarter of 2018 the results of the exploratory study will be available through ReMaTecNews. On the basis of the results, a conference will be developed in which the wind energy sector will be invited to discuss the remanufacturing potential for the sector. This conference takes place during ReMaTec 2019 from 23-25 June 2019 in RAI Amsterdam, where remanufacturing specialists in the field of technology and supply chain from more than 75 countries meet.