What is the scrap value of the materials in a typical wind turbine - the entire unit? Take a typical 1.5 MW turbine, just the raw material value, no labor or overhead cost.

As I understand high purity silicon is the bulk of panel costs, while turbines contain tons of expensive carbon fiber. I estimate based on the responses that there is 2 tons of carbon fiber in the blades worth $16/lb, or 30k+ just for that.

Carbon fiber and other fiberglass costs:


  • 2
    I suggest you split this question in two. Wind turbines and solar panels are two totally different animals. While you are it, please 1) emphasize that you want the scrap value, not the construction value, 2) describe exactly what parts of the system you want estimates for (for wind e.g. the entire turbine or only the nacelle?), and maybe 3) do some homework instead of letting others gather all information for you: a full analysis is a lot of work, and you risk your question getting closed as 'too broad'
    – user2451
    Feb 15, 2016 at 8:54
  • What do you mean with 'the bulk of panel costs'? Why do you say 'blade' singular? You can also give a breakdown of the materials uses in the different parts (blades, mast, nacelle, ...) so that we have a start...
    – user2451
    Feb 15, 2016 at 9:26
  • I can delete the question if you prefer. I was hoping for someone with experience building turbines to answer. Thanks!
    – D J Sims
    Feb 15, 2016 at 9:27
  • It is a valuable question, I'm trying to make it more to the point and understandable. But it is also very broad, so a lot of work to be done ;-) and you can be part of that.
    – user2451
    Feb 15, 2016 at 9:30
  • wind-watch.org/faq-size.php In the GE 1.5-megawatt model, the nacelle alone weighs more than 56 tons, the blade assembly weighs more than 36 tons, and the tower itself weighs about 71 tons — a total weight of 164 tons. - We can look at whatever turbine you have the most experience with, they list a Vestas turbine too. I expect that carbon fiber would be the only major material cost.
    – D J Sims
    Feb 15, 2016 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


Executive summary

It's too early to tell what the resale value is, as contemporary turbine designs are not as old as the lifetime of a wind-turbine, so we have very little experience of the economic value that results from decommissioning 1.5MW turbines; however, a rough first-order calculation puts the scrap value of the metals, based on Feb 2016 UK prices, at gb£14k/MW, or us$30k for a 1.5MW turbine.

Too early to tell; and reuse vs scrapping

We don't know, because it is too early to tell: there isn't yet a large post-first-life industry for wind turbines. And the reason for that is that large-scale deployment of the now-industry standard horizontal-axis three-blade megawattt-plus wind turbine as we know it, dates back less than the lifetime of a wind turbine.

We do have some experience from the large Danish repowering exercise (2002-3), when a change in incentives caused a burst of decommissioning of older, smaller turbines; they were replaced with newer, high-power turbines. But the decommissioned turbines generally got sold on to be refurbished and reused elsewhere: so resale value for reuse must have been significantly higher than scrap value, given the additional transport costs implied by selling for reuse.

So, with a first life of 20-25 years, and with a second life for maybe another 10-20 years, it's still too early to say what the optimal end-of-first-life outcome is for wind turbines.

NPV of scrap is low enough that no one's really counting

And because the first life is so long, then that 20-25 years of economic discounting of any end-of-life value, means that it's not really yet a consideration when reviewing the economics: anything that's achieved at end-of-life is considered a bonus as far as the business case is concerned.

A first attempt at scrap value

There is value in pretty much all of the materials: the last I saw, it was expected that 95% of materials (by weight) could be reused or recycled (see LCA below). Even the poured concrete base can be recycled as subcore. All the copper, steel, aluminium, neodymium (if present) and so on already have existing recycling industries, but the value of each is constantly in flux as global commodity prices move around.

For offshore wind, the picture is even less clear, as large-scale offshore deployment is much younger than onshore; and the world's first commercial offshore windfarm (Vindeby in Denmark, which became operational in 1991) is still generating after 24.4 years (as of Feb 2016).

You could look at a bill of materials from one of the life-cycle analyses - from that Vestas 2MW one, we see:

  • large metal components are assumed to be 98% recycled
  • cables 95% recycled
  • other steel, aluminium, copper: 90% recycled

That LCA shows per MW capacity (based on a 50MW plant consisting of 25 x 2MW gridstreamer turbines):

  • about 120 tonnes of iron & steel
  • 13 tonnes of aluminium (& alloys thereof);
  • 3 tonnes of copper
  • 0.18 tonnes of permanent magnet (neodymium, dysprosium alloy)

This could enable you to get a rough estimate for value, depending on where you are in the world, and what the price of the various scrap metals are near you today.

In the UK, ferrous metals are ~£50/t, aluminium ~£600/t, copper ~£300/t. Multiplying those figures together, just using 95% as an average recycling rate, gives 0.95 * (120 * 50 + 13 * 600 + 3 * 300).

Which is £14k per megawatt, or about us$30,000 for a 1.5 MW turbine, excluding scrap value of the blades

Blade composition and value

It's only recently that we've seen increasing use of carbon fibres as structural spars in blades, so in general this won't apply to older turbines.

If your estimate of us$450k for the blades of a 1.5MW turbine are correct, the value of the blades swamps everything else. I'd have though that there's a good chance they'd have more value as sale for reuse rather than sale for recycling.

However, regarding your calculation of blade composition: I understand from elsewhere that only 6% of the blade composite by weight is carbon fibre, and even a monster 100m blade (no one's making them that big yet) would weigh between 35-50 tonnes; so that would be 2-3 tonnes of carbon fibre for one 100m blade, or 6-9 tonnes for a whole 10MW turbine; let's call it 0.6-1 tonnes per Megawatt, which is between one sixteenth and one-tenth of the figure you have. On that basis, the blades are still worth more than everything else (us$30,000-45,000 per 1.5MW turbine), using your number for carbon fibre scrap value (I couldn't find a price when I looked), assuming the carbon fibre can be separate out from the rest of the blade cheaply.

  • The fiberglass could be significant too. If the 1.5mw's blades and nacelle come to about 90 tons of fiberglass at a dollar a lb, that's 180k right there.
    – D J Sims
    Feb 16, 2016 at 5:31
  • 5
    Except that fiberglass doesn't recycle effectively. The ingrediants to make fiberglass are about a buck a pound, true, but I don't know any cheap way to take them apart. Methyl choloride is a solvent for the resin, but it's nasty stuff to work with, and unspinning the glass fibers and rolling them up for re-use? If you don't reuse the glass as fiber, you may as well start over with broken bottles. Feb 16, 2016 at 6:55

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