Windemer, Rebecca

Rebecca Windemer
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Managing ImPermanence: end-of-life challenges for the wind and solar energy sectors
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Richard Cowell, Neil Harris
Supervising school:
School of Planning and Geography,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Siting is a key issue and a strategic resource for on-shore wind and field-scale solar energy, and the sector has a conundrum to deal with. On the one hand, the potential reversibility of the impacts such facilities may create (by dismantling and removal) is one of their key sustainability advantages compared to fossil or nuclear energy. However, given tightening restrictions on greenfield sites, the dynamics of the future development of the wind and solar industry will likely depend in large part on its ability to retain the licence to operate (legal, social and environmental) in current operational sites, either through life extension or repowering. Solving this conundrum faces a shifting regulatory environment (e.g. in planning) but also uncertainties arising from social changes in the wider setting and developer/operator behaviour. As the sector begins to enter an era where initial planning consents are becoming time-expired, it is crucial to obtain an understanding of how developers and operators are responding to end of life issues, with what effect and the challenges they might face.

This thesis seeks to understand how decisions regarding end of life procedures for solar and wind farms are considered by developers, landowners and planners as well as the communities in which the facilities are located. From this, it seeks to identify factors affecting the future development dynamics of the wind and solar sectors. Through mixed method case study research this thesis will provide an exploration of the ways in which considerations of time, place identity and the complexities of landscape change influence considerations regarding the duration of renewable energy infrastructure.