According to recent research by WindEurope, there are approximately 34,000 wind turbines in Europe aged 15 years or older. This offers opportunities for companies that (will) specialize in the removal, resale and processing of these turbines, and everything else involved. However, the recently founded company AGIX Energy BV is offering a full decommissioning service package.
Interview with AGIX Energy, by Sabine Lankhorst
I have a meeting with Oxana Danilevich and Tom van der Linde, the managing directors of AGIX Energy BV (AGIX). On location, because how better to talk about removing turbines than where it actually happens. When approaching the meeting location, at the Westereems wind farm in Eemshaven, I get the impression, however, that I’m arriving at a construction site rather than a decommissioning site. These are not some old, small, first-generation turbines that are being removed but nine Enercon E82 3 MW turbines.
That makes this project unique, says Danilevich upon arrival, not only in the Netherlands but perhaps even in Europe. “These turbines are only 11 years old. When you consider that the average lifespan of a turbine is 20 to 25 years, they are not even halfway. ” For Danilevich, this project is also special to her personally. Although she has been managing director of Antro Group in Belgium since 2011, her career in wind energy originally started in the Netherlands 12 years ago. To carry out this major for the market project with AGIX in the Netherlands makes it extra special, she says enthusiastically.
The 9 turbines are removed because a completely new wind farm with 24 turbines (Enercon E136 4.2 MW) is built nearby in the polder, Van der Linde explains: “These turbines will be placed too close to these turbines, causing wrong turbulence.” They are therefore not, as is often the case, replaced by more powerful units. The day of the interview, the last parts of turbine number 8 were loaded onto transport trucks to go to storage. “For this type of turbine, we generally need 2 days to build up the cranes, 2 to 3 days to prepare and perform the dismantling and 1 to 2 days to take down the cranes,” Van der Linde explains, “Yesterday, however, the weather conditions were so good that we were able to bring all parts down in one day. The project is progressing with faster speed than we originally planned.”
In this case, the turbines get a second life, says Danilevich. The generator, rotor, nacelle and upper tower section are going to a new destination in Spain. Most critical components such as towers and foundations will be newly built by the end customer. In January or February, the parts are picked up and shipped to Spain. Until then, these will be stored in Eemshaven.
Second-hand turbines are a good solution to bring down the CAPEX, she says. For example, where projects based on new turbines purchase are not profitable enough for the investors due to low wind speeds effecting limited yield or for the reasons of high project expenditures or financing difficulties. But also when customers have no experience with wind turbines yet. If the experience with a second-hand turbine is good, they often next purchase new turbines.
In addition to Spain, the UK, Italy and Poland are also major markets for used turbines. Although the Polish government announced some time ago that second-hand wind turbines are no longer welcome. She also sees opportunities for African countries and Russia in the future. It depends on local initiatives and on regulations. The list of new markets will therefore continue to change.
Danilevich notices that the market for used turbines is maturing. Until about 5 or 7 years ago, she saw that customers were mainly interested in buying single turbine units. Nowadays, the customer is increasingly a developer who is not by definition the end user of the turbines himself, but acts as a kind of EPC contractor for investors. She provides the example of the Spanish customer who buys the 9 turbines for four projects. In this way, larger purchases are made. This is an ideal construction for AGIX. Increase of the technical quality and reliability of used wind turbines are also expected coming years, Danilevich assumes, for example, some wind turbines may go through modernisation and retrofit as part of the Life time extension programme and will be also re-certified, which bring them more value for later re-sell.
Although there will remain a market for second-hand turbines in the coming years, this will not be nearly enough to accommodate the volume of turbines to be removed. With the exception of the rotor blades, almost everything from a turbine can be recycled 90%, says Van der Linde. This is more difficult with the rotor blades. However, the volume is already too large to bury it in sand pits, so solutions must be found for recycling.
“We are looking into this and are in contact with most of the parties working on a solution to recycle the blades or with industry clusters that are jointly exploring this challenge,” says Danilevich. For example, there are parties that process blades into furniture, infrastructure and even tiles. “However, it is still in its infancy. The technology is already there, although it still has to be developed to be able to process the large volumes. The sales market for final goods is not yet big enough though. As a result, recycling is currently still a major expense for a turbine owner. For example, you pay about 500 euros per ton to recycle blades. Sometimes this is even without the entire logistics.”
The open question is who are the buyers and how are we going to market it. According to Danilevich the market should not wait too long because there will be competition coming from other markets such as aviation and the maritime industry who will also be looking for suppliers.
Meanwhile, preparations are taking place for the demolition of the towers. Since these are made of concrete, this requires a different method than with steel towers. Van der Linde: “In this case two different contractors will be involved in the removing of the towers and foundations. There are not much expertise and companies that specialise in demolishing of this type of concrete towers, since these are the one of the first units of such size being demolished. The foundation removal will be performed by local company, but the tower demolishing works were outsourced to a German party.”
The demolition is performed using a crane with a demolition ball. I was supposed to witness the demolition of the first tower that morning. We were waiting for the port authorities to give the thumbs up for the road protection method. This type of concrete is so pure that they can make completely new concrete from it, says Van der Linde.
Full scope service
While we waited for the green light for the demolition, we move to the nearby office of RWE, which AGIX may use temporarily. RWE owns the Westereems Wind Farm, which consists of a total of 69 wind turbines . Here we continue our talk about AGIX’s plans. AGIX presents itself to the market as a multi-brand turbine turnkey decommissioning service provider. We are different from other parties in this respect, says Danilevich:
“Where other parties specialise in one part of a decommissioning project, we want to offer a full service scope.”
The company provides a complete scope of services to wind park owners related to the Planning, Monitoring and Disposal. The standard scope starts from site inspections with stake holders, time planning, HSE aspects, contract management, permitting and communications to authorities, then proceeds with purchase and sales of wind turbines, their dismantling and transportation and finishing with foundation demolishing, waste management, site restoration and valorisation, if any involved. All scope of works is proceeded with close project management on AGIX side,. As the main contractor, the company takes on all risks in the project implementation. AGIX carries out all management and administrative tasks in-house. The company works with subcontractors for practical implementation such as logistics work, lifting activities, dismantling, foundation removal and demolition work. Van der Linde: “You cannot expect a demolition specialist to maintain communication with all stakeholders. In this project there are already about 30 stakeholders. For this assignment alone, a year of preparations was required. We took part in the tender for the project in April 2019, won the contract in November 2019 and could finally start in October this year according to the planning. ”
On the wind turbines Buyers side, the scope of supply depends on the wishes and experiences of the customer. In the case of the Westereems project, the responsibility passes to the end customer as soon as all components included in the supply, such nacelles, blades, generators and top towers sections loaded on trucks. However, AGIX also helped the customer get in touch with the packing company, the local logistics company, negotiate with the port for storage and cargo pick-up, and offered project management.
Today the company is busy with preparations for the dismantling and HSE scope for another unit in Eemshaven, which is Vestas V90 3 MW on 100m tower. In another project, in the Jacoba Rippolder, AGIX will dismantle a 2.5 MW Nordex N90 turbine. Here they provide turnkey services in which the turbine is purchased by AGIX. The scope of agreement includes HSE aspects, dismantling, loading and transportation to Vlissingen port. Negotiations are also underway for two additional units.
No fixed contractors
What makes the proposition also unique is the fact that the new company does not work with fixed contractors. “We want to do every project as cost-efficiently as possible for the wind turbines owner. Every project is unique, which is why we always choose the best subcontractors with the most applicable experience for that specific wind turbine technology and project scope,” she adds. Local players are looked at as much as possible. They are familiar with the surroundings and the authorities. If no specialist can be found locally, this will be sourced outside.
A case of getting used to
Particularly in the Netherlands, this way of working is not the common way, Danilevich says: “Project owners still have to get used to this proposition, we notice. Large companies such as RWE (innogy) and Eneco already appreciate this approach, but the smaller project owners, such as agricultural communities, are not yet very comfortable with being served on turnkey basis. We must therefore invest time in convincing them that our proposition to have one company taking on full responsibility is safe and cost efficient.” The two partners however have full confidence in a bright future.
About AGIX Energy
AGIX Energy BV is a 50/50 joint venture between the Dutch company IX Wind and Belgian Antro Group. Both parties have known each other for years, but the first talks about a possible collaboration started 2,5 years ago. Danilevich noticed that the brokering market, up to a few years ago her company’s core business, had stagnated. The market became increasingly transparent, whereby selling and purchasing parties could find each other more easily directly and added value of brokers went sharply down. At that moment the idea arose to offer a full service package. However, she realised that it was not possible to do this alone. Bringing together the specialisms of the two companies would be a logical step. For example, the core business of Antro Group lies in the trading of second-hand (used and never used) wind turbines, while IX Wind provides advice in HSE, Project management, development, construction and commissioning of wind farms in the Netherlands, but also in Europe and Asia.
During 2 years, several strategies were explored and the international market proposition developed. With the winning of the Westereems project and the prospect of multiple other assignments, the partners knew they were on the right track. In November this year, AGIX was officially a fact. In total, there are now seven people working for the company. In addition to Van der Linde and Danilevich as managing directors, there is also the director operations, Marvin Clazing. Together they form the core team. In addition, IX Wind employees are deployed in the administrative preparations and processing of projects, HSE and operations, such as site management. Danilevich is mainly dedicated to the commercial activities such as bringing in customers, purchasing and selling turbines, contract negotiation, marketing, etc.