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End-of-life challenges for the wind and solar energy sectors

This research project explores the planning regulation of UK onshore wind and solar projects and how decisions are made regarding repowering, life-extension and decommissioning.

Detail

Many wind farms in the UK and internationally are reaching the end of their consented or operational life, creating a growing need to consider how decisions should be made regarding their future. At the end of their life sites have three main options:

  • Repowering (replacing sites with new infrastructure often of a different size and capacity)
  • Life-extension (extending the planning permission for the existing infrastructure)
  • Decommissioning (removing all of the infrastructure from the site).

This research investigated how such decisions are considered and made by developers, landowners, and planners as well as the communities in which the facilities are located. From this it provided recommendations for industry, policy makers and communities.

The project involved an analysis of all relevant UK planning and energy policies and data on the age and status of all UK wind farms (incorporating details of repowering, life-extension and decommissioning).

In-depth case study research was undertaken in a number of locations to explore the opinions of all stakeholders. Surveys were also undertaken with residents living close to two wind farms to understand if communities’ perceptions of wind farms change over time and in relation to end-of-life applications.

Output

The findings revealed a range of potential challenges relating to:

  • The use of time-limited planning consents and inadequate decommissioning conditions
  • An absence of policy detail for end-of-life applications
  • Cases of poor community experience over the life of a scheme.

Further research is now being undertaken to explore the potential of windfarm abandonment in America, with the aim of producing recommendations to prevent such occurrences in the UK.

This page will be regularly updated to provide the outputs from the original research project and the additional research on infrastructure abandonment. Both projects have been supported by the ESRC.


The project team

Principal investigator

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Dr Rebecca Windemer

Postdoctoral Fellow

Team