Vestas is committed to reducing our impact on the environment by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gasses. As a company, we aim to decrease the overall use of energy, increase our use of renewable energy and use less carbon intensive energy forms.
By 2015, Vestas’ aim is that turbines will be at least 15 per cent more efficient, emitting only 6 grams of CO2 per KWh during their lifetimes. Today, Vestas contributes approximately 7 per cent of the total CO2 emission for the V112-3.0 MW turbine. Of the remaining amount, approximately 85-90 per cent is contributed by material and component suppliers, and 4-10 per cent is for transport of materials and components for construction, decommissioning and recycling.
One of the main components in reducing the carbon footprint of the turbine is to reduce the impact of SF6. SF6 is a potent greenhouse gas used to rapidly quench electric discharges in the switchgear and thereby preventing fires and electrical hazards.
Vestas uses SF6 as this property makes it possible to significantly reduce the size of the switchgear, at high voltage solutions - something that other alternatives as air or dry nitrogen cannot do.
The downside of using SF6 is that SF6 is a significant greenhouse gas. 1 kilo of SF6 has the same global warming effect as 22.800 kilo of CO2. On average, there is 7 kg SF6 in the switchgear of a turbine. If emitted to the atmosphere, it equals 10 per cent of the CO2-eq emitted during the entire life cycle of the turbine, from mining, through production, operation and decommissioning of the entire wind power plant. 10 per cent roughly compares to the entire transport carried out in the life cycle of a wind power plant.
Vestas will take actions to control the emission of SF6 and look at future opportunities to phase out SF6, in order to minimize the effect on climate change. A take back scheme for switchgears containing SF6 is in place to return and recycle the SF6 from warn-out switch gears, in the best possible way and to reduce any emission during operation and when the turbine reaches end of life. Besides the take back scheme, Vestas needs to make significant energy reductions in production development, in our factories and within the supply chain to reach the target of only 6 grams of CO2 per KWh delivered to the grid.
Vestas abides by a strict definition of recyclability. When recycled, both the value and the essential properties of the materials must be preserved. By this definition, 80 per cent of Vestas V112.3.0 MW can be usefully recycled at the end of its lifetime. Because Vestas believes that a sustainable product should leave the smallest possible environmental footprint when decommissioned, it aims to increase the recyclability of its turbines from 80 to 85 per cent by 2015.
Vestas is working proactively on initiatives to improve the recyclability of its turbines. These range from recycling research, for instance research on how to recycle glass and carbon fibres, to the full recycling of test nacelles.