By Catherine Colbert

Aging wind turbines – some installed more than 20 years ago – are getting a second wind. Towering gracefully among California wind farms, an estimated 10,000 machines are slated to be replaced by more modern and much larger wind turbines.

Instead of laying these wind soldiers to rest, a Massachusetts company is focused on breathing new life into them through what it has coined “The Ultimate Recycling Project.”

Aeronautica Windpower, as part of its business as a wind turbine and tower manufacturer, harvests the better machines from the field and refurbishes them to give them a second life. The firm likens the modern windmills to aircraft, as they’re stripped down to their frames and rebuilt with newer technologies and reporting capabilities to fly for another 20 years.

Plucking the better machines from wind farms and putting them to use after an upgrade helps to save the power equivalent of a couple nuclear power plants, the company says.

Farmers are a target customer for the company’s used wind products. For a wind turbine to work effectively, it requires up to 18 acres and a prevailing wind. And with 2.6 million farms in the U.S., Aeronautica Windpower hopes to find enough homes for each recycled wind turbine.

The company specializes in generating green power. Founded by a group of engineers and businesspeople, Aeronautica Windpower makes and markets both new and used mid-scale wind turbines and towers. Its products offer clean power to industrial parks, ranches, commercial complexes, and small neighborhoods. Rather than selling the utility-scale models that can reach 350 feet tall, Aeronautica Windpower concentrates on selling smaller wind turbines in the 65- to 500-kilowatt size. Its older wind turbines have been rebuilt in the 65- and 108-kilowatt sizes.

The recycled version of the wind turbines are sold at up to half the price of newer models, as well, so there’s an economic incentive to buy them second-hand. Wind turbines include a tower, blade set, nacelle, and rotor. They run from $120,000 for the lowest-end version to $260,000 for the most expensive. The company boasts about 10 dealers to help service its products and it’s looking for more dealers as its customer base extends its reach nationwide.

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