12 April 2024 News

Decommissioning wind turbines as a second chance

The design phase of What if Lab Upcycled Turbines is complete! Over the past few months, the four design studios dove into the world of wind turbines. They analysed the characteristics of various components and had discussions with thought leaders, industry experts, researchers, and other designers. Afterwards, the designers presented their concepts to Vattenfall and other stakeholders in the field. Each presented a range of concepts, from concrete applications to future visions for the energy sector. Curious about what cepezed, Superuse Studios, Studio Carbon, and Interactivist have designed? Keep reading!

With this What if Lab, we wanted to approach problem-solving differently, diverging from the usual methods of our technical staff. It inspired me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

Thomas Hjort, Vattenfall Director Innovation Offshore Wind Energy

Floating platforms by cepezed

Decommissioning wind farms presents new challenges and opportunities for material reuse. Most materials can be recycled, but blades pose a challenge due to their highly optimised material and shape. As the demand for green energy steadily increases, so does the quantity of blades.

Blades are designed to be robust, strong, and large. Cepezed’s proposal is to use the blades as intact as possible and give them a second life by utilising their optimised weight and hollow form as floating bodies. From this perspective, they can design floating platforms that can serve various functions. These new floating areas could address various global issues, such as housing shortages and rising sea levels.

Superuse Studios
Superuse Studios
Superuse Studios

Nestle by Superuse Studios/Blade–made

Superuse Studios introduces Nestle. Nestle is the transformation of a Vestas V80 Nacelle into a Tiny House of approximately 35m2 that fully complies with Dutch building regulations. By demonstrating this repurposing, Superuse Studios can enable all 10,000+ Nacelles of this type to have a useful second life.

For the interior, Superuse Studios has designed various basic configurations. Nestle can be used as a standalone office, exhibition space, rooftop addition to a home, or as a vacation stay along the beach, in the forest, or at a holiday park. Ideally located as close as possible to the old wind turbine.

Reuse is now also possible for all larger Nacelles made of glass fiber-reinforced polyester (GFRP). The execution of Nestle, like the reuse of blades, aims to be facilitated by Blade–Made to give the GFRP waste material from wind turbines a useful purpose.

One of the beautiful aspects of the What If Lab was that with four different designers, each with their own perspective, we could pursue our ideas from the same starting question. This creates an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition, allowing for open and substantive feedback on each other’s work. As a result, there are now four strong concepts for Vattenfall.

– Jos de Krieger (Superuse Studios)
Dataschilderij – Interactivist

Turbine Times by Interactivist

What if wind turbines could tell us about the cycles of their lives? What if they were more than a source of green energy and communicated with us to share stories through the rhythms of nature.

Alongside Vattenfall, Interactivist aimed to promote these milestones of energy transition as a meaningful presence in our lives, embedding them in our cultural and emotional landscape. The Turbine Times narrate the cycles of their lives through the language of data paintings, transforming them into living, breathing entities that communicate, resonate, and connect with us. Within the synergy of sustainability and society, decommissioning is as much about preserving economic value as it is about preserving emotional value. Interactivist believes that we must reimagine, reevaluate, and love anew to truly embark on a circular transition together.

Studio Carbon

Vision 2050 by Studio Carbon

In this collaboration with Vattenfall, Studio Carbon explored crucial questions about turbine decommissioning and its broader implications in the energy ecosystem. This research led them to a key insight: understanding the end of a turbine required us to reconsider the entire energy sector. Their solution consisted of three main components:

  1. System Map: Studio Carbon meticulously mapped out the energy sector, identifying unique opportunities for circular innovation.
  2. Vision 2050: An experiential, feasible, and holistic vision for 2050. In this, they envision the transformation of wind farms into “Wind Forests,” serving as protectors of society and ecology.
  3. Backcasting Toolkit: By introducing a groundbreaking toolkit, they enabled Vattenfall stakeholders to develop step-by-step goals to realise the 2050 vision collaboratively.

By addressing these questions and implementing our solutions, the studio aligned with Vattenfall’s Fossil-Free 2040 vision and contributed to shaping the future of renewable energy in Europe.

What now?

The What if Lab may be over, but that’s not the end! Potential further development of the concepts is being explored. “I would like to see at least two physical pilots; a tiny house made from a nacelle, with various functions (perhaps also for a good cause), and to see the systematic approach come to life in backcasting workshops,” says Thomas Hjort. Efforts are also underway to implement the lessons learned from this What if Lab within Vattenfall. Hjort is lobbying to make data on components and materials more accessible.

One thing we know for sure: during Dutch Design Week 2024, the concepts will take on physical form.