End-of-life challenges for the wind and solar energy sectors
This project comprises the ESRC postdoctoral fellowship of Dr Rebecca Windemer, exploring the planning regulation of UK onshore wind and solar farms and how decisions are made regarding repowering, life extension and decommissioning.
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 duration of the planning consent for the existing infrastructure.
- Decommissioning: removing all of the infrastructure from the site.
The 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.
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 how communities can benefit from the repowering of wind farms in Wales.
Outputs from the project are available under ‘related downloads’ and ‘related links’. Please contact Dr Rebecca Windemer for additional information.
- Windemer, R. and Cowell, R. 2021. Are the impacts of wind energy reversible? Critically reviewing the research literature, the governance challenges and presenting an agenda for social science. Energy Research and Social Science 79 102162. (10.1016/j.erss.2021.102162)
The project team
Professor in Environmental Policy and Planning