WIND turbines do not last forever and 34,000 of them across Europe are now between 15 to 25 years old.

Now, in the absence of an international standard for decommissioning, a task force set up by WindEurope has drawn up a set of guidelines to dismantle them sustainably.

It examined existing regulations across Europe, including the UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, to develop a decommissioning document with circularity at its centre.

“Wind turbines are a valuable source of resources that can be reintroduced into the circular economy,” said the task group.

“The aim should preferably be for use over the long-term, as this is the most sustainable application.

“However, at some point in time, wind turbines will reach the end of its life and valuable resources must be returned to the material cycle.”

Among the concepts it examined were repowering – replacing turbines in a wind farm with newer turbines – lifetime extension, decommissioning and recycling.

Recycling the turbines can be complex, however the guidelines give an overview of the rules and regulations on decommissioning across Europe, along with a definition of best practice.

Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO, said: “Repowering is happening and will increase. It’s a great opportunity to get more energy from today’s wind farms.

“Repowering reduces the number of turbines by a third while tripling the electricity output.

“And it preserves the existing wind farm sites which often have the best wind conditions.”

Dickson added: “Governments need repowering strategies that set the right framework and ensure efficient permitting procedures for repowering.

“We want an international standard that defines how to decommission turbines. There’s no such standard today.”