Planning For A Wind Farm’s End-of-life: A Detailed Cost Analysis Of Decommissioning Practices And Suggested Project Planning Strategies

Open Access
Boehm, Allison M
Graduate Program:
Energy and Mineral Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
December 16, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Seth Adam Blumsack, Thesis Advisor
  • wind
  • energy
  • decommissioning
  • permitting
The United States’ wind industry is beginning to show signs of maturation, with some of the earliest constructed wind turbines reaching their end of useful life and the larger mega-watt scale turbines not trailing far behind. Experience with decommissioning utility scale wind generators in the U.S. is virtually non-existent. Smaller (less than 500 kW) turbines have completely different configurations that are not analogous to their massive multi mega-watt successors. Understanding and planning for decommissioning costs is misunderstood by wind farm developers and often a financial stymie for a project. With little known about the costs associated with deconstructing a wind farm, it’s difficult for developers to convince landowners and local authorities that they have properly planned for decommissioning a project in an event the towers need to come down. In response, local authorities have put unreasonable price tags on the decommissioning phase and, in many cases, required upfront capital investments at a phase in development that is already impoverished by initial capital costs. Understanding the true costs associated with decommissioning a wind farm is essential to the U.S. wind industry’s growth. This research looks closely at crane, de-construction and land reclamation costs of decommissioning a wind farm. It compares these costs to potential end of life decisions, such as salvaging the turbine or reselling the turbine. The findings from this analysis will create a framework that can be used by developers, landowners, and local officials for judicious wind project planning.