Refurbishing components for wind turbines significantly reduces CO2 emissions - sustainability at the core of Vestas Parts & Repair
Elena Arias Losada
Director, Head of Global Repair Operations, Service Operations
Published on 15th of April 2021
In Vestas Parts & Repair, it is key that we scale sustainably as we look into a near future where wind is set to grow enormously – the more turbines we have under our service contract, the more repairs and spares we are required to supply. In Vestas, we have an ambitious sustainability strategy, Sustainability in Everything We Do, where Parts & Repairs play an increasingly important role in contributing to our company’s targets: becoming carbon neutral by 2030 (without using offsets) and building zero-waste wind turbines by 2040.
There are basically two big areas in the supply of parts that contribute to our carbon footprint; production of materials and logistics. Of these, many people expect the logistics side of our operation to have the greatest potential to decrease our carbon footprint. Of course, there are savings to be made here – we have entered a sustainability partnership with our supplier DSV Panalpina, working to reduce emissions from transport. But what holds an even greater potential for bringing down CO2 is the materials used in the manufacture of the products themselves – particularly in the larger components like gearboxes and generators. In fact, 83% of the CO2 emissions come from the production of materials, while just 17% come from transport.
Reduce, Reuse and Refurbish
So, how can we reduce the CO2 footprint of the materials used? The answer seems almost too simple to be true. We refurbish - because with a refurbished item we can reuse up to 70% of the materials compared to a new item. In fact, a refurbished component at Vestas saves, on average, 45% of CO2 emissions compared to a new part, when reverse logistics are taken into account – that’s the cost of bringing the item from the turbine to the factory for repairs. Basically, by refurbishing components, we can nearly halve CO2 emissions.
Today, we are proud to have a high utilization and availability of renovated parts. By following our three R’s mantra of Reduce, Reuse and Refurbish we are able to create sustainable refurbished components, which follow very demanding repair specifications to meet the technical and quality standards required to operate as new components.
Basically, when there is a failure, we take the part out, transport it to the factory where we make it as good as new by fully refurbishing it, and give it a new warranty. It’s an excellent solution all round, as in addition to being more sustainable, it’s more competitive.
Authorized recycling gives materials a second life in the market
Let’s take a generator for example: It’s often the copper windings on the rotor and stator of a generator that need to be replaced. Copper is an expensive commodity, and a total rewind is often necessary for a full re-warranty. At our factory in Lübeck, we separate our waste materials, mainly cooper and steel. These waste materials are then handed to one of our authorized recycling companies who will recycle them - giving them a second live on the market. In Lübeck, where we repair generators from 500kW to 5MW on Vestas and Multibrand turbines, we achieve two main deliverables, we provide a better competitive solution to the market but also a considerable CO2 saving – as 70% of the materials we use is reused in our workshops.
Uptower repairs and crane-less solutions
But even so, on the practical side, getting a generator or gearbox, which can weigh up to 30 tons, out of a tower is both expensive and carbon intensive, given the large crane that is required to move these weighty elements. So, we also have a wide portfolio of uptower repairs in our main components. These uptower repairs have led us towards crane-less maintenance wherever possible and a focus on repairs which are possible in the nacelle, without having to remove parts to the repair factory.
This is more complex than it seems though, and requires people with the right training, both on site and in our factories. At our repair factory in Lübeck we have 120 employees, with more than 30 years’ experience in Wind Business, who are able to assess the viability of uptower repairs and when down-tower is required, so that our skilled operators can execute the repair in-house.
A sustainable supply chain
We are constantly analysing our repair footprint to make it efficient and sustainable and extend our focus into our supply chain. We have facilities and partnerships with suppliers across the globe who we screen, monitor, and assets according to sustainability and quality criteria. We’re ongoingly onboarding a broader share of our supplier network to align with our sustainability journey.
We’re also looking at our own corporate fleet, progressively phasing out service vehicles and benefit cars powered by fossil fuels. In 2020, we introduced 127 sustainably fuelled vehicles to our service fleet and transitioned 35% of our benefit car fleet to electrical vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Our goal is that from 2025, we’ll only use zero emission vehicles in our corporate fleet.
It's very gratifying to see how we are now gaining more recognition for the role we can play in driving the change needed to achieve a more sustainable planet. Together with a fantastic team across over 80 countries and 10,000 service technicians around the world, we are all totally engaged in contributing to Vestas’ goal to become carbon neutral by 2030 without using carbon offsets.
And our ambitions are high when it comes to scaling sustainably. It is our aim to double the current Repair Volume by 2023 while reducing the CO2 emissions from our supply chain by 45% per MWh delivered to the market by 2030.
Just a few years ago, nobody was really talking about repair in this context, but now we are happy to be more visible as we make our positive impact on our business, by strengthening our competitiveness, market share and sustainability contribution.
What is Vestas Parts & Repair?
- Vestas is the leading Parts & Repair partner with a world-class portfolio of solutions across brands, delivered with agility and digital simplicity
- We deliver minor and major components to serve wind turbines across the largest wind turbine brands such as GE, Siemens, Gamesa, Senvion, Suzlon, Nordex – and of course Vestas.
- We also provide a wide variety of services to keep our customers’ assets running through the years, such as: turbine inspections, maintenance, repairs, and upgrade solutions.
- Vestas Parts and Repair also covers “Shop.Vestas” - the industry’s leading e-commerce platform offering spare parts and services in more than 80 countries around the world across Multibrand and Vestas platforms.
If you have any questions regarding Vestas’ sustainability strategy or any of our targets, please do not hesitate to contact the Sustainability Department at email@example.com