The Clean Energy Council and its members from the Australian wind farm industry are committed to working respectfully with wind farm communities, during wind farm development, construction, operation and end of life decommissioning.
The Australian wind farm industry takes decommissioning very seriously. No wind farm owner has ever abandoned a wind farm in Australia and the industry does not intend to ever allow this to happen. It is important to emphasise that abandonment of wind farms is not the Australian experience, and that there are no examples in Australia.
A wind farm is expected to have an operational life of approximately 20 to 30 years. After this time, the project owner will either decommission the site, restoring the area to its previous land use, or negotiate with landowners to repower or upgrade the equipment and extend the wind farm’s operational lifespan.
Decommissioning means that the wind turbines, site office and any other ancillary infrastructure is removed from the site, and roads and foundation pads are covered and revegetated, allowing land to be returned to its former use.
Sometimes parts of the wind farm that continue to serve a functional purpose may be left in place, such as the substation or access tracks. What remains will be negotiated and agreed with the landowners. In many cases, access tracks have become a desirable part of the landowner’s property and the landowner wishes for them to remain.
The decommissioning of the site is the responsibility of the owner of the wind farm. Generally, Development Approvals and landowner contracts contain clauses explicitly setting out the amount of time between the wind farm’s operational end of life and the decommissioning, and the expectations around rehabilitating the site. Typically, approval conditions also require decommissioning to be undertaken within a given timeframe of operations permanently ceasing to operate.
The Clean Energy Council and our members can ensure fair treatment of landholders after a wind farm ceases to operate. For each wind farm the owner will:
A simple decommissioning plan should be created at the time at which a lease is signed with the landowner, and prior to construction. The plan should be reviewed in the final years of the lease to add detail around timing and funding, and to update any changes that are agreed between the parties. In the final years of the lease, the wind farm owner will ensure that financial arrangements are made to allow decommissioning to take place as agreed.
The following are relevant considerations for new wind farm developments in creating the decommissioning plan:
In the unlikely event that the wind farm company doesn’t commence substantial decommissioning and remediation works within 12 months of turbines no longer generating permanently, control of the decommissioning fund or other financial security should be given to the landowners or to an administrator as agreed between the parties to complete the decommissioning.