Articles, Blog

Who Cleans Up When a Wind Farm Retires?

October 8, 2019


Anybody from Wyoming will
tell you the wind here is almost always blowing. But today, a familiar landmark
along the Colorado-Wyoming border is still. The Ponnequin Wind Farm has been
shut down and decommissioned by its operator Xcel Energy. Like I said, it was no
longer in the best interest of our customers
to keep operating it. Really there are
two separate issues. The Ponnequin Wind Farm
is nearly 20 years old. It is relatively small in size. It did not make sense to keep
investing in the operations of that facility. The average lifespan
of a wind turbine is about 20 to 25 years. But with maintenance and
equipment and upgrades, a turbine could
last up to 40 years. These 44 turbines have
been around for 18 years and had a capacity to generate
750 kilowatts of electricity each. But technology has changed. The average wind
turbine built today generates twice that or more. Jonathan Naughton directs the
Wind Energy Research Center at the University of Wyoming. He says the decision
to decommission comes down to economics. A 15-year-old wind
farm is on the verge of where that business decision
could be made to shut it down. Now, hopefully in many cases
they would choose to re-power, put in new turbines in
place, if the wind farm is amenable to that. But these turbines
won’t be replaced, because in order for large
operators like Xcel to invest, wind farms need to be bigger
in order to be profitable. So the Ponnequin
site will come down. And bison rancher,
Ron Thiel, wants to make sure it’s
cleaned up the right way. All the disruption
of grass, which means roads, concrete,
chain link fences, towers– they need to be
gone, so that we’re back to square one, which is how
they received the property. Thiel owns and leases
some of the property where Ponnequin was built
in Wyoming and Colorado. Xcel says it’s
committed to eliminating any trace of the wind
farm once it comes down. But when a wind farm
needs to be cleaned up, it’s tricky, because
there’s no one set of rules. Instead it’s a combination of
federal guidelines, sometimes state regulations, sometimes
private agreements. It all raises questions
about the long term environmental impacts
of these farms. Nationwide, there are
around 49,000 wind turbines and at least 2,700 that
have been decommissioned since America’s first wind
energy boom in the 1970s. Most of these retired turbines
are in Southern California. The Tehachapi Wind Farm sits on
the edge of the Mojave Desert. It was built during that initial
wind energy boom and decades ago. But many of the older
turbines are no longer working, like skeletons
standing on the desert hillside, slowly decaying. Back then, there was
very little regulation. When they were built
in the mid to late 70s, they didn’t have a lot
of permitting issues about who was going
to take them down or who was going to recover
the sites after they were done producing power. When the bottom fell
out of the market, most of the companies that
produced the wind turbines went bankrupt. The broken down past
serves as a reminder of the need for an adequate
clean up plan today. Even though the Ponnequin
site spans two states, the turbines themselves
are in Colorado and subject to the patch work
of state and local regulations.But here in Wyoming, regulators
say they saw the future coming and put rules on the
books a full year before the federal guidelines. In Wyoming, wind energy producers are required to put
up bonds to cover the cost of taking down
turbines and returning the land to the way it was. Outside of Rawlins,
Wyoming, construction is scheduled to begin late this
year on the largest planned wind farm in North America. The Chokecherry and
Sierra Madre Wind Project will populate
these remote bluffs with giant next
generation wind turbines, generating enough electricity
for around three million homes.Like Ponnequin, this
massive wind farm will span government
and private land. Here, the Bureau of Land
Management has taken the lead.The surface is
our jurisdiction.And that means all
elements of the habitat, the soils, the vegetation. So when it comes to what
we require to be put back, I think is pretty comprehensive. The federal BLM is also
working side by side with the Wyoming Department
of Environmental Quality to oversee the project. Now, bonding is required for the
full amount of decommissioning and reclamation. And so if somebody
did walk away, we do have security in place
to close that facility out. All that is spelled out
upfront before the project even begins construction. The state of
Wyoming-BLM partnership may set a new blueprint on
how wind farms are managed and eventually decommissioned. But to date, there are no
binding federal regulations in place. I think, yes, we need
to have a consortium that is willing to
discuss these things and understand they all come
with different perspectives. But in a way, that it’s
economic to develop wind plants moving forward. As for the Ponnequin
Wind Farm, Xcel’s plan is to blow up the
towers this fall and then disassemble the blades. Some of the structure
will be recycled to scrap. And the rest will
end up in a landfill. You have to realize
with renewable energy, it’s not free from impacts. For Inside Energy,
I’m Leigh Paterson.

100 Comments

  • Reply Mark Wood April 20, 2019 at 1:04 am

    The blades are made of known cancer carcinogen materials…3500 dollars to change the oil. Sell your wind to blow hard commoncore educated scum. Idiots.

  • Reply Black Swan April 20, 2019 at 9:47 am

    What about the raptors and owls minced up by the blades?
    Canada is punishing big oil with impossibly large fines for birds found dead on their property ( whether they were responsible or not). But has waived any fines on "green" wind farms that serve up bird meat. Crazy!

  • Reply larry philby April 20, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Wind farms: Virtue-signalling boondoggles.

  • Reply Scott Watson April 20, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    It’s a wind turbine bot a turban 🤦‍♂️

  • Reply Sally Hillal April 21, 2019 at 12:53 am

    I would guess the idiot taxpayer.

  • Reply Jonathon Clary April 21, 2019 at 3:16 am

    Tell that to the people of Zion Illinois who still have a barge full of nuclear waste sitting in Lake Michigan waiting for disposal. Been there for years and it’s going nowhere.

  • Reply Peter B. April 21, 2019 at 3:47 am

    Free energy from sunlight can be harvested from well placed windows and skylights in buildings during fall, winter and spring. They can be opened in the spring, summer and fall at night.

  • Reply bob mar April 21, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Were the moon landings faked?

  • Reply David Soltai April 21, 2019 at 4:28 am

    US tax payers and democrat lGBTQ Smolletts Store it on Jerry Browns Rectal Ranch

  • Reply pauly pisspants April 21, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    anyone who's ever driven I10 through palm springs can see about half the windmills are derelict… they just get left out there to rust…

  • Reply Scott Baxendale April 21, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    The land owner should keep them and make his own electricity to sell back to excel?

  • Reply Scott Baxendale April 21, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    This pales in comparison to old dilapidated oil rigs.

  • Reply Garry West April 21, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Most inefficient way known to man to produce electricity, few people make money off wind energy, soon be in the history BOOKS.

  • Reply Moe Shouse April 21, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    why am i NOT surprised?. in Kansas you cant put up a turbine, in your yard, that might full in to the yard next to you.

  • Reply Roger Wittekind April 21, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    Oh great let's worry about getting the land put back and forget about all the birds that were killed by those bird killers.

  • Reply Greg Moore April 21, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    Same folks who clean up abandoned mines, chemical plants, refineries…….cause wind power is worse………yeah right

  • Reply Tim Chisholm April 21, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    Those pesky turbines, which due to lack of regular scheduled maintenance over the years are now a problem for the environment? Gee…whose fault was that? Notice how they say it's no longer profitable to run these. It's all about the profit. How about running them as a nonprofit for and by the community. Me thinks you're overlooking a much, much more dire problem both here in Canada and to a lessor degree the U.S. https://thenarwhal.ca/the-story-of-albertas-100-billion-well-liability-problem-how-did-we-get-here/ https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/factsheet/pe/abandoned-wells

  • Reply Raymond Licon April 22, 2019 at 12:12 am

    In California it takes 30 years to get permits to do work. Part of the reason they don't put new ones up.

  • Reply lon arbuckle April 22, 2019 at 2:53 am

    no one talks about the energy used to build a wind turb,,or the polution caused from building them, or the cost of maintanance,,,
    and they don,t last ,,,,,dhhaaa

  • Reply RusseL Goehl April 22, 2019 at 4:26 am

    I've been asking that question for a long time.

  • Reply gotfreid April 22, 2019 at 4:48 am

    I like what Wyoming did, hopefully it is the same for oil

  • Reply Sintre Tizer April 22, 2019 at 6:17 am

    There is no doubt, it will be much less of a problem that where to keep the waste from a nuclear plant ! thank god for wind and solar energy .

  • Reply David Well April 22, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Just put a tax on them that are not being used. Say the tax money will be use for the homeless or some other feel sorry group and watch how fast they come down.

  • Reply ThreePhaseHigh April 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

    They’re going to be sorry. There are thousands of them here in Iowa. What once was beautiful green farmland is now covered in them big ugly windmills. Without the huge government tax break no one would build them. They chopped up thousands of birds . Not to mention the transmission lines that take the power away. And of course the wind doesn’t blow all the time. Driving up the cost because you still need to build a generation plant. One nuclear plant would illuminate all of those worthless MFs . With one fist full of nuclear fuel we could saving billions of dollars and generate electricity for a reasonable cost. They sit on Iowa land worth anywhere from 5 to $12,000 in acre. Wyoming if there’s anyway stop this madness. Before your scenic state is ruined.. (With the exception of Rawlins☹️ those poor people.)

  • Reply Steve Dwyer April 22, 2019 at 11:21 am

    scrappers will take care of it…its MONEY going UP and its MONEY going down for other JOBS

  • Reply Glenn Martin April 22, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    When the report says that disused towers will be "blown up", I assume it means the towers will be toppled with charges at their bases. It's a lot easier to clean up when they aren't in thousands of little pieces.

  • Reply Kristofer Saseniuk April 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Why can’t they sell it to locals to run?

  • Reply D M April 22, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    I wonder…in the 18 years those turbines were running, did they generate as much electricity as it took to produce them, deliver and install them in the first place?? And if you factor in how much energy is going to be used scrapping them, have they ever repaid their own carbon footprint??? I rather think they probably haven't.

  • Reply Chris Mate April 22, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    The windfarm nightmare is coming, if all goes as well as it can it may be 10 years off, but that thing is going to cry for more money sooner or later, so who's going to be the 2nd owner after the installer-?

  • Reply david diehl April 23, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Only one regulation is needed, you remove everything you brought in. return it back to how you received it. Or we take your companies and everything you own.

  • Reply A SH April 23, 2019 at 9:43 am

    The same idiots that put solar panels on there roofs or on the farm land…. those idiots can clean up the shit they created..

  • Reply A SH April 23, 2019 at 9:48 am

    This is all a money making machine,,, will not help a damn bit for the environment..

  • Reply I know you are right, And I just got owned but: April 23, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    So not only do they not produce enough electricity, they don’t last very long. Talk about waste and not being green. Another dipshit democrat retarded idea.

  • Reply Michael nunya April 23, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    I’ll do it!!!!!
    You idiots know the value of nothing.
    Better question for you ignorant Americunts. Who cleans up your retired nuke plants including the spent rods.
    Who cleans up and disassembles coal fired energy plants.
    You morons.

  • Reply john hanrahan April 24, 2019 at 1:42 am

    I see an argument to upgrade to larger turbines but not one to retire the wind farm.
    Did the Wind River dry up?

  • Reply John Doe April 24, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    25 year life cycle, there is limited potential of asset RETURN

  • Reply electromechanical stuff April 27, 2019 at 1:43 am

    BLM the non elected government officials who have more power then cops and more corruption the politicians

  • Reply joe goecke April 27, 2019 at 4:39 am

    I don't see why they have to make them so poorly; there are turbines out there that are well over a hundred years old, and still going strong. It's a turbine! Hardly any moving parts.

  • Reply bernardthedisappointedowl April 27, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Good Lord, it must be just awful, with all their radioactive waste, oil contaminated ground and ruined aquifers – Oh, hang on, isn't that something else? ^oo^

  • Reply Daniel Meeks April 27, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Blow it up and turn into scrap. Just like every thing else.

  • Reply Dan Simmons April 27, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Nuclear, fusion ( Moon dust) is the path not wind ( on a large scale ), maybe solar and yes, coal because it can burn extremely hot more so than LP, natural gas which are great fuel sources too.
    Fuck the left, they make ok movies though. And fuck AOC, you know the rest of the extremist too.

  • Reply jonathan lavezzi April 28, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Don’t forget who covers all the medical bills that have piled up from windmill cancer !!!

  • Reply jonathan lavezzi April 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Do people in this comment section do not realize that all forms of energy have an impact on the environment?

  • Reply D.R. Lane April 29, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    Stay on it Ron Thiel!

  • Reply Femia Cools April 30, 2019 at 10:58 am

    https://youtu.be/2_5K4kmnsL4

  • Reply russ collins April 30, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    have to leave the site dorment for 75 year depending on rain fall to dilute the cancer causing materlal thast has biilt up

  • Reply Pat Boyd April 30, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Bonds for cleanup should be included for the cost of any such disrupting projects BY LAW, but then, who cares what the law says.

  • Reply Elliot Wilson April 30, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    There are many off grid people, that these companies could just offer them to folk, for free, as long as they pick them up, from the staging areas, that would be off the property.

  • Reply Rtg Oxlv April 30, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    Give them away to chines they will take them down and recicle in a week

  • Reply leonardusdesign leonardusdesign May 1, 2019 at 12:11 am

    What an eyesore and without battery backup very inefficient

  • Reply charliehorsenm charliehorsenm May 1, 2019 at 12:31 am

    If Xcel were actually concerned about costs of electricity production, this ridiculous collection of monumental junk would have never erected in the first place. The primary purpose of these things is a PR SOP to the ignorant public that has been hoodwinked by political opportunists and the purveyors of these contraptions who support the opportunists into believing that these things could EVER produce enough power to actually matter or that they could come even remotely close to economically competing with conventional generation methods. The only thing that ever made them APPEAR to be competitive is the massive government subsidies that Xcel (and many others) were given to put them up in the first place. If you doubt any of this, do some actual RESEARCH on the subject for yourself.

  • Reply Scott O,Donahoe May 1, 2019 at 2:23 am

    Google how the base of these things are built ! It would take 3 months of work just to get the base of one out of the ground !

  • Reply thehappyhoof May 1, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Dirty no good MF!!!

  • Reply John G. May 2, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Rebuild the existing old worn out turbines, it may be easier and cheaper to replace all the worn parts like bearings,etc.

  • Reply Gy Bx May 2, 2019 at 12:57 am

    We have these abominations in Michigan and no company wants to service them when they break down. The East Coast rich Democrats won't allow these ugly eyesores near their property, but it's fine with them if the Red state "deplorables" suffer the indignity of a raped landscape.

  • Reply M D May 2, 2019 at 2:49 am

    It's CLEAN ENERGY, duh! No clean-up necessary.

  • Reply sam zerafa May 2, 2019 at 4:59 am

    Apparantly windfarms produce radiation

  • Reply Bob Gomez May 2, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Leigh is kind of hot.

  • Reply Bob Gomez May 2, 2019 at 5:09 am

    Even free wind is not enough for some Jew to make money. Never ends.

  • Reply Woohoo I'm 102 May 2, 2019 at 5:50 am

    If WIND TURBANS worked they would be working. This project was abandoned because WIND TURBANS are not cost effective. PERIOD!

  • Reply Peter - Kåre Skak Pedersen May 2, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Windpower is SO LAST year. Let’s change to Trump’s clean coal.

  • Reply Dadson worldwide May 2, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    The more I learn about windmills the less they make sense .
    Only if it's part of a mixed system do they make sense but even pumping water to a high elevation like battery storage you still have to spend 3 times on 3 separate systems. When theres wind and sun you can store it with water and when there is none the gravity can be used to drain reservoir to turn hydro electric. Yes its effective but cost is rodiculous

  • Reply John Terpack May 2, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Wind farms take up thousands of acres of land and have to be replaced every couple decades. Solar takes up thousands of acres and has to be replaced periodically. Tell me how these are improvements over conventional powerplants. Nuclear is the most ecological power possible and we let fear-mongering fools lock it away.

  • Reply Mike Sheppard May 2, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Why does she keep calling it a turban?

  • Reply Aaron Elliott May 2, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Bring them down as soon as possible before anyone else gets windmill cancer.

  • Reply rapid13 May 3, 2019 at 12:31 am

    I really love these eyesores. No, really. Not being sarcastic at all. Really.

  • Reply fjandgoob May 3, 2019 at 10:57 am

    taxpayers, always the taxpayer

  • Reply Devin Culley May 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I have had mine since 2008 and they are still working great! There is NO NEED TO RETIRE THEM.

  • Reply Sam Elliott May 3, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Shoot me a reply I Will take them down for ya!

  • Reply Armando van Haaren May 4, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Wind turbines are easy to clean up not like nuclear reactors

  • Reply Korschtal May 4, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Genius: focus on wind farms and hope no-one notices that a nuclear power station takes centuries to clean up (and even then it's basically taking the nuclear material "somewhere else")

  • Reply Chris Van Bekkum May 4, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Greens , are you listening??? All the pollution when created, now all the pollution and waste for disposal .!!!!! This is NOT "SUSTAINABLE"

  • Reply Mike Smith May 5, 2019 at 10:19 am

    How much to manufacture, transport, construct and maintain each tower, then how many dollars/energy does it make in entire life wihout legislative funding. I would love to see pen books on power output to see if they do balance or create energy debt?

  • Reply Brad K May 5, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    How much fossil fuels will it take to deconstruct an renewable energy wind farm? So ironic!!

  • Reply Steve Lamperta May 6, 2019 at 5:25 am

    OH SHUT UP ! TELL THE POOR PEOPLE THEY CAN HAVE THESE USED WINDMILLS AND THEY WILL ALL BE TAKEN DOWN AND CLEANED UP ! YOU IDIOTS !

  • Reply Jim Bowman May 6, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Note: 2019, this is now part of a 45 square mile wind generating complex run as a public utility.

  • Reply Sherry Wyllie May 6, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Wind and solar are being shoved down the consumers throat. We must get a dozen sales calls EVERY DAY. We have a 40 year warranty on our roof as long as NOTHING is placed on it. Every solar company says THEY will warranty our roof as long as we buy their product. Now do you really think they would still be in business to honor that? As soon as maintenance has to be done they will fold up shop. Its not worth their time.

  • Reply James Whitehead May 7, 2019 at 5:28 am

    Why every damn thing in United States is so fucking complicated? Fucking politicians!!!!!

  • Reply Stuart Arnold May 7, 2019 at 6:09 am

    I didn't see a single sikh. Where are all the wind turbans they are talking about?

  • Reply Tom Yazel May 7, 2019 at 11:18 am

    well the SJW and the libs that get off on stupid wind and sun.  get out there and earn your welfare handout.

  • Reply carla mc ewen May 7, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    who cleans up from the oil wells and mines and fracking and damming? there is equipment and open uncleaned mine sites and such, all over the planet….recycle and rebuild it or not…get in line for clean up. corporations have a horrible track record for picking up after themselves, that would cost money.

  • Reply kirbylane13 May 7, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    Taking down the turbine is the easy part. The foundation is another story. I'll bet they leave them in the ground and that ground will never be the same.

  • Reply Frank Dawe May 7, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    The environmentalists want you to believe that wind energy is a great idea. News flash! EVERY source of energy has an environmental impact. Ironically, the cleanest source of energy, with the least impact, is the one most despised…nuclear energy.

  • Reply Cheeseatingjunglista May 8, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Replace the fucking turbines you greed obsessed corporate bastards, make it a bit bigger, what the fuck is wrong with you Yanks? Greed, greed, guns and fucking drugs. Sooner China takes over, the safer the environment – that deranged pig Pompeo has just fucked the Arctic Agreement – you are all fucking mad for fucking coal and oil. Backward, utterly backward land of mental pygmies

  • Reply 50 Hz May 8, 2019 at 9:00 am

    2019, average turbines are more than 3MW

  • Reply Charlie K May 8, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    "Who Cleans Up When a Wind Farm Retires?2
    The taxpayers?

  • Reply crashweaverda May 8, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Thats funny there going to end up in a land fill.

  • Reply Robin Gilliver May 12, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Turbans!?

  • Reply Gary Durn June 3, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    If the entrance signs are full of bullet holes you know it's US of A.

  • Reply Wayne Sardullo June 22, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    If the Public and Companies had a Clue on Future Evolution and Stop these idiot complainers there would be NO NEED to Deco.

  • Reply TurbineVlogger July 10, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Seeing how the majority of the wires in the turbine is aluminum. Depending on the turbine manufacturer the company that would bid to retire a windfarm if it wasn't the installers would be someone like ersg wind or blue wind recovery group. As far as "unscrewing the nut on the bottom of the bolts" even if you had the tooling big enough to do so i would not suggest it. The likely hood of you getting out before being crushed is VERY low!

  • Reply Aijaz Devgeri July 27, 2019 at 5:38 am

    I want to give my farm land on rent Base for windturbine

  • Reply MegF September 5, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Xcel Energy discontinued operations of its portion of the Ponnequin Wind Farm on Dec. 31, 2015.
    The company will maintain aviation lights, and other safety and security measures at the facility until 2019, at which time we should have a final decision on the disposition of the towers and related assets.

  • Reply Johan Temmink September 25, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    This is not the time to be retiring wind farms… upgrading and replacing should be the only options.

  • Reply G C September 26, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    A turban is what Muslims wear on their heads. It's turbine.

  • Reply Jesus Solis September 27, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Nuclear is king!

  • Reply Matthew James Montgomery September 28, 2019 at 9:28 am

    End of subsidies?

  • Reply John Balladear October 4, 2019 at 2:29 am

    Wind "turban"?

  • Reply David Wheatcroft October 7, 2019 at 1:41 am

    For the same cost, you van insulate 500 roofs, or build a windmill. In 2 years the roofs will save MORE energy than the windmill produces in its mediocre rubbish 20 year life! The largest wind farm in S.England costing millions makes enough power for 3 kettles! Well done! Promote that man! Give him a bonus. The Greens are half witted.

  • Reply Jay B October 7, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Who wants to see the landscape dotted with these monsters? They are imposing and intimidating.

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