Calls to scrap Danish turbine limit

The operational life of Danish turbines has been found to be longer than first planned, meaning the country’s plans to reduce the number of machines over the next decade could be costly.

Denmark's clean energy lobby groups want the turbine limit agreed in 2018 to be scrapped (pic: Hofor)
Denmark's clean energy lobby groups want the turbine limit agreed in 2018 to be scrapped (pic: Hofor)

Under the 2018 energy agreement, the government set out plans to cut the number of operating wind turbines in Denmark from the roughly 4,300 machines at the time to 1,850 by 2030 as machines exited support schemes or were no longer financially viable.

According to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), the average economic life of wind turbines was expected to be around 28 years for those installed up to and including 2007, and 25 years for machines built from 2008.

However, "the service life now depends on turbine size and location and is within 25-40 years, depending on this. This gives an average life of approximately 35 years for existing land turbines," the DEA found in a new report.

This means many turbines are financially feasible for longer and would require compensation from the government if removed. This had not been budgeted for in the 2018 energy agreement.

As a result, the DEA predicts reducing the number of turbines by 2030 would be difficult and costly to achieve.

Trade body Wind Denmark calculated the turbines that had been earmarked for retirement currently have a value of around DKK 6.6 billion (€885 million).

This is what the state would have to pay if they insist on removing the turbines in order to reach the 2030 target, Wind Denmark said. It argued the market forces should dictate when turbines are removed. They can then be replaced by more modern machines.

Wind Denmark CEO Jan Hylleburg said it would be "grotesque" if society has to pay to "roll back the green transition".

By removing the turbines before they reach the end of the economic life, Denmark is losing out on effectively "free" wind power – as most of the sites are no longer supported by the state.

A joint statement by Danish green think tank Concito, and trade associations Dansk Energi, DI Energi and Wind Denmark, called for the government to remove the turbine limit and give local municipalities the power to dictate how many turbines they have.

"Instead of wind turbine ceilings, we should discuss how to strengthen the local democratic process when we design and set up wind turbines. Let's create more transparency about which municipalities are lifting their responsibilities - and who are not. Wind turbine investors do not want conflict with the local community," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Danish climate council, said in any post-Covid-19 recovery plan, it would be "obvious to abolish the current ceiling on the number of onshore wind turbines".

The council is advising the Danish government on the best pathway to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

According to local media outlet, Denmark's climate and energy minister Dan Jørgensen did not dismiss the idea of removing the ceiling.

"It would be a good idea. But this cannot be done within the current settlement. We must find a good solution to that, and I am discussing that right now with the parties in Parliament," reported Jørgensen as saying.

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