The days are numbered for the world’s first offshore wind farm

As the first wind farm is ready to retire, the environmental consequences are evaluated.

Vindeby offshore wind farm near Lolland was built in 1991 and now, more than 25 years later, it is run down and has been overtaken by developments in the wind power industry. At the time when it was built, it was a state-of-the-art facility and represented the start of a rapid development. Today, one of the largest wind turbines in Denmark produces the same output as the entire Vindeby offshore wind farm. For this reason, Ørsted is decommissioning the turbines and removing their foundations from the area.

The environmental consequences are investigated
Orbicon has undertaken an environmental evaluation project for Ørsted and investigated the possible environmental consequences of removing the offshore wind farm. This is the first time that an offshore wind farm has been decommissioned.

“We have researched the environment down there, looked at sediment transport, the relationships of the currents and much more, including sailing around the area and filming the seabed. It is our assessment that the effect on the environment will be minimal. Amongst other things, this is because the environment on the seabed is used to large-scale sediment transports”, says Jan Nicolaisen, group leader and marine biologist at Orbicon.

The foundations are concrete shells that have been sailed out to the site and then filled with sand. When the foundations are removed, the sand will spread out, but this is not a problem in the shallow water area. There will not be a new offshore wind farm here, as neither the foundations nor the wiring can be reused. However, the turbine blades, among other things, will be investigated to see what 26 years of usage do to them.

“Vindeby marked the humble beginning of a Danish industry that now employs approx. 30,000 people, has a turnover of approx. DKK 90 billion per year and exports in the region of DKK 60 billion. But after 25 years in operation, the turbines are becoming worn out, which is why we are getting ready to retire them”, says Leif Winther, responsible for Ørsted’s offshore wind farms, in a press release.

Orbicon has developed environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for several of the large offshore wind farms in Denmark, and parts of the Femern connection, and has now been the first to investigate the consequences of decommissioning an offshore wind farm. With the development within the wind turbine industry, the first offshore wind farm is far from the last one that will need to be decommissioned.

About author

WSP offers engineering consulting services in the areas of environment, utilities and building design.

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Mads Sønnegaard Poulsen

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