Germany's wind energy sector is undergoing a generational change: Older facilities are being replaced, leading to a second hand market for decommissioned turbines. Some industry experts are critical of the plan.
Today in Germany, tomorrow in China?
Repowering is the current keyword for Germany's wind energy sector. Ideal locations for new wind parks have become rare and that's why many companies are concentrating on modernizing already existing facilities by replacing old, inefficient turbines with more up-to-date ones.
Wind energy technology has advanced tremendously over the past years: Today's turbines are more than 30 times as powerful as those developed 20 years ago.
But many of the wind wheels replaced during repowering are just 10 years old and still work without any problems. Still, some of these first-generation facilities are scrapped after they're decommissioned even though it seems logical to sell them.
Whereas busses, trucks and other parts of antiquated industrial machinery have long been exported to developing countries, the second hand market for wind turbines is only just emerging. Only about two years ago, Web sites began offering the first facilities for sale.
Some say old plants not suitable for export
Andrea Kröger, who brings together sellers and buyers of wind energy plants at windmesse.de, has about 20 turbines on offer at any given moment. Most of the people who inquire about turbines come from abroad, she said.
For them, the affordable plants are a good way to get into the business of renewable energy.
But others, including German market leader Enercon, said second hand facilities are not suitable for export. A company spokeswoman said the old turbines already showed signs of wear and tear and added that Enercon did not plan on supporting the sale of used plants.
Kröger said she was confident that supply and demand of second hand wind wheels would pick up in the future.
"Repowering is just starting here, and other countries in South East Asia are following suit," she said, adding that German turbines have been shipped to Vietnam, China and Sri Lanka.