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End-to-end sustainability – dismantling offshore wind turbines

End-to-end sustainability – dismantling offshore wind turbines
Image: DECOM Tools

Offshore wind energy has the unique potential to become the driving force behind cross-sectoral energy transition. But project managers need to take a closer look at the issue of dismantling, despite or perhaps because of the rapid expansion. The EU project DECOM Tools addresses precisely this topic.

The commercial age of offshore wind energy in Germany began exactly a decade ago in April 2010, when the Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm went into operation in the North Sea. Assuming a service life of 20 years for offshore wind farms, Alpha Ventus has now reached the halfway mark. Many other systems will pass their zenith in the near future as well. The question of what will happen with wind farms and energy systems offshore after the end of their scheduled service life is therefore inevitable and logical. At present, the issue of decommissioning offshore wind energy systems is largely unexplored, and any experience has been obtained from dismantling individual turbines at sea, most of them close to the coast. Although wind turbines have supplied green electricity all their lives, they can only be accurately described as eco-friendly technology if the whole process of dismantling, reuse or repowering is sustainable and environmentally sound.

Interreg project DECOM Tools

Funded by the European Union, the DECOM Tools project within the Interreg North Sea Region programme addresses the issue of how sustainable decommissioning might be organised. The project aims to reduce the ecological footprint of dismantling by 25 per cent (measured in CO2 equivalents), to cut the costs of dismantling by 20 per cent and to help stakeholders in the North Sea region acquire greater expertise in the dismantling process. DECOM Tools is implemented by an international consortium of cluster organisations, municipalities, business development agencies, research institutes, universities, colleges and port operating companies:

  • De Lauwershorst Groep (Netherlands)
  • Energy Innovation Cluster (Denmark)
  • Hamburg Institute of International Economics, HWWI (Germany)
  • University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer (Germany)
  • Maritime Cluster Funen (Denmark)
  • New Energy Coalition (Netherlands)
  • POM West-Vlaanderen (Belgium)
  • Port of Grenaa (Denmark)
  • Port of Ostend (Belgium)
  • Samsø Municipality (Denmark)
  • University of Aberdeen (Scotland)
  • Virol (Netherlands)
  • Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (Norway)

 Market analysis on the dismantling of offshore wind farms

Among the initial results of the project is a market analysis from November 2019 that examines the general issue of decommissioning offshore wind farms, as well as the specific questions facing the individual countries bordering the North Sea. In Germany, the impetus to explore the dismantling of offshore wind turbines comes mainly from wind farm operators, as they are responsible for decommissioning. The current regulations are ambiguous and do not specify precisely whether the foundations need to be removed completely or partially. Some confusion also remains as to how the turbine blades should be recycled. Nonetheless, the study indicates as well that the imminent dismantling of the first offshore wind farms in the North Sea region has the potential to become a new growth market with opportunities for companies, municipalities and port operators. The Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems (Fraunhofer IWES) expects that in Germany alone, at least 2,000 offshore wind turbines will be decommissioned in Germany by 2040.

Role of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI)

Mirko Kruse, a research scientist at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) was in charge of the market analysis within the DECOM Tools project. The HWWI is an economic think tank with offices in Hamburg and Bremen. Besides a prestigious city ranking, which it published every two years in cooperation with the Berenberg private bank, commodity indices and various economic forecasts, the HWWI also works in the areas of energy, climate and the environment. Among the topics addressed by the researchers working in these fields are the macroeconomic effects of energy transition policies, the microeconomic impact of energy market design and, within the framework of DECOM Tools, the prospects for dismantling offshore wind energy systems.

This market analysis will be followed by a DECOM Tools stakeholder analysis, which will draw on interviews with a variety of interest groups on the issue of dismantling offshore wind farms. For background information on the study or the DECOM Tools project, contact Mirko Kruse at HWWI or visit the following links.

Contact: Mr Mirko Kruse |

Link to the market analysis:

DECOM Tools:


About Tom Mikus

Profilbild zu: Tom Mikus

I’ve been working as an International Project Manager for the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster since 2019. At the cluster, I focus on sharing information about renewable energies beyond Germany's borders. I report on the current developments and activities of the Hamburg cluster and renewable energy hub at an international level.