The below article was origionally published in Recharge Wind (https://bit.ly/2xSLAJK) and discusses how wind can play its part in Scotland’s ambitions for a ‘circular’ economy.
OPINION | Recycling end-of-life turbine components is an opportunity for the wind industry to embrace the 'circular economy', writes Stephanie Conesa.
In 1995 Scotland’s first wind farm, Hagshaw Hill, took shape in the hills of South Lanarkshire. Twenty years later, the machines which have turned wind into electricity at that site are reaching the end of their lives. And so comes opportunity.
Scotland’s ambitions for a ‘circular’ economy – where everything has value and nothing is wasted – have already earned us worldwide acclaim and secured us host nation status for this year’s Circular Economy Hotspot next month.
So it’s only right that renewable energy – Scotland’s stand-out economic and environmental success story – should step up to the plate in the next phase of the fourth industrial revolution.
Excluding its concrete foundations, 80% of a modern wind turbine is recyclable.
Rather than seeing turbines at the end of their lives – like those at Hagshaw Hill, and many more which will come after them – as a liability, the industry is starting to see them as an asset.
Using end-of-life turbines to create value – by reprocessing blades or recovering, reconditioning, re-certifying and re-using asset components – may spell opportunity for Scotland.
By making used parts a saleable asset at the end of a project’s life, we could bring down end-of-life costs, reduce the cost of wind energy and enable more deployment of renewable generation.
The circular economy is already in action in Scotland’s low-carbon sector, with many organisations making this a priority.
Scottish Renewables member Renewable Parts will open its turbine parts refurbishment facility in Argyll next month, with plans to revitalise components which would otherwise have been scrapped. Renewable Parts will be exhibiting at the Global Wind Summit in Hamburg from 25-28 September.
The Advanced Composites Group at the University of Strathclyde has successfully demonstrated the reprocessing of wind turbine blades back into raw materials for reuse.
Floating Power Plant has been investigating new leasing business models to maximise the effective use of its mobile and reusable integrated floating wind and wave energy technology.
Legislation like the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive has already pushed circular thinking mainstream – and where legislation has driven innovation, incentivisation can also play a role.
Zero Waste Scotland is working with SMEs in Scotland to put the circular economy into practice, providing advice and support as part of a wider circular economy programme worth £70m.
This programme, backed by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Funding, is available now to SMEs operating in Scotland who are looking to develop greener, more circular energy infrastructure.
With so much at stake – and so much benefit to be gained – the renewable energy industry’s shift to an even more sustainable model looks set to continue.
After all, what better than repurposing the tools we’re currently using to fight climate change so they can continue to do so long into the future?
Stephanie Conesa is policy manager at trade body Scottish Renewables
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