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Multifaceted drivers for onshore wind energy repowering and their implications for energy transition


Wind energy is anticipated to become a backbone of the future energy system. Ageing wind turbine fleets, increasing land-use constraints and rising relevance of societal factors make the deployment of land-based (onshore) wind energy ever more complicated. Consequently, repowering is expected to become a rapidly growing point of focus for the wind industry. Here we propose a more holistic and socially informed project-level approach to analyse repowering activity that enables a more robust understanding of the process and potentials. We demonstrate that for wind pioneer in Denmark, only 67% of the capacity removed in repowering projects was related to the physical space needed for a new turbine. Other factors that drive repowering include regulation (for example, noise-related, 8–17%), development principles (for example, aesthetics, 7–20%) and political bargaining (4–13%). The recognition of repowering as a negotiated process between host communities and wind developers will probably be critical to unlock the full potential of wind energy in the future.

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Fig. 1: Illustrative map of a typical repowering project that includes the on-site as well as off-site dismantling of turbines.
Fig. 2: Distribution of wind turbines in repowering projects by dismantling category.

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Data availability

The dataset generated during the current study is published as Supplementary Data 1 (spreadsheet format). Although the dataset contains all quantitative data collected from the different sources, we cannot disclose specific disaggregate information from the interviews, which have been conducted under the Chatham House rules. Interview transcripts and notes may be requested from the authors, but will only be handed out after explicit consent from the interviewees. Source data are provided with this paper.


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This work constitutes a contribution to the research in the international working group IEA TCP Wind Task 26 (Cost of Wind Energy). We thank all the members of the group for their extraordinary collaboration and essential comments on our work that formed this article. The work was in part funded by the Danish Public Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EUDP), project no. 64018-0577. This Article constitutes a contribution from the European Commission to IEA Task 26 research. The views expressed are purely those of the authors and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission. This work was authored (in part) by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the US Department of Energy under Contract no. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding was provided by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office. The views expressed in the Article do not necessarily represent the views of the DOE or the US Government. The US Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the US Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for US Government purposes.

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Authors and Affiliations



L.K. and M.K.J. conceived the study, developed the analysis and undertook the interviews. M.K.J. led the data processing and analysis, with support from L.K. E.L. and T.T. contributed with international data. All the authors contributed to data analysis and interpretation. All the authors wrote and edited the paper.

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Correspondence to Lena Kitzing.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–3, Figs. 1–4 and Table 1.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Data 1

Full dataset, source data for tables and figures.

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Kitzing, L., Jensen, M.K., Telsnig, T. et al. Multifaceted drivers for onshore wind energy repowering and their implications for energy transition. Nat Energy 5, 1012–1021 (2020).

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