Repowering means installing new or upgraded technologies and equipment to improve the performance, while lowering costs associated with aging wind, solar or other renewable generation systems. In the case of wind parks, this includes replacing wind turbine components or entire turbines, or the full fleet of turbines and towers at a site. It also includes modernising interconnection infrastructure or adding more turbines to the project.

Repowering solar PV plants, also known as retrofitting, includes replacing panels or inverters or adding DC-DC optimisers between the PV and the inverter to boost the plants’ yield.

Increasing the efficiency and generating capacity of renewable energy is the central aim of repowering and it is an important element in the energy transition. Triodos Renewables Europe Fund therefore finances the repowering of several of its existing projects.

Solar plant Helium

Helium is a medium-sized solar PV project in south-west France. The plant has been operational for almost 10 years. Triodos Renewable Europe Fund owns an equity stake of just under 50%. With an additional investment in the third quarter of 2019, the fund financed replacing old panels and related cabling system with new cables and more efficient panels that will generate a higher amount of electricity. This investment is expected to significantly improve the performance of the plant. After completion of the repowering project, Helium will provide the equivalent of 1,600 households with clean electricity per year, an increase of 300, and help reduce 300 tonnes of CO2 emissions, of which 48 tonnes are directly attributable to the fund, in line with PCAF methodology.

Repowering will significantly improve the performance of the plant.

The old panels will be recycled by specialist recycling company PV Cycle, a European non-profit organisation providing waste management services. Founded in 2007 by and for the PV industry, PV Cycle has set the benchmark for PV waste treatment and is a leader in the sector. In July 2018, Veolia and PV Cycle opened the first recycling plant in Europe for end-of-life solar panels. The plant separates and recycles the panel components – everything from the glass to the aluminium frame, junction boxes and connection cables. The plant aims to recover and reuse 95% of the material. This recycling sector is an essential aspect of developing solar energy. The reuse of materials from solar panel components is an important component in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Responsible Production and Consumption and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Repowering the Dutch wind assets

Acquired in 2006, Neeltje Jans, Roompotsluis and Jacobahaven wind parks are Triodos Renewables Europe Fund’s first investments in wind generation. The wind parks are located on the Oosterscheldekering in the Dutch province of Zeeland, an area known for its high wind speeds. The wind turbines benefit both from the higher wind speed enjoyed close to the sea and the solid foundation of the strip of artificial land constructed around the dyke. They are more easily accessible than offshore wind farms, making them cheaper to run them.

The parks’ turbines are close to the end of their lifetime. Together with co-shareholder E-Connection the fund has decided to replace the old turbines with new ones. The repowering plan is to replace the existing wind turbines with higher turbines, potentially doubling the current electricity output. Most of the turbines are due to be replaced by 2022.

Repowering may potentially double the current electricity output.

Assessment of environmental impact

This repowering project requires a lengthy approval procedure before construction can start. In the summer of 2019, the Neeltje Jans and Roompotsluis assets reached several critical milestones in the approval process. One milestone was being granted an environmentpermit by the local authorities, giving them a license to operate. To obtain such a permit, the repowering plans were subject to a rigorous environmental impact assessment of their impact on the surrounding ecology, water safety, noise, external safety, tourism and landscape. The objective of this assessment is to ensure that environmental considerations are a key factor in the decision-making process and to identify whether the repowering plans have adverse consequences for the environment. One outcome of the assessment was that the location of one of the new turbines had to be changed to preserve the habitat of a breeding colony of birds and the migration route of bats.

Explore our impact report ‘Accelerating the energy transition’ to find out more about our role as investor in the energy transition and system transformation. The report presents our 2019 results in a context of numbers and stories and showcases our mission to make money work for positive change.