Research topic: End-of-life challenges for the wind and solar energy sectors
Research pathway: Environmental Planning
Host institution: Cardiff University
In the context of a global transition to decarbonise the energy system, expanding energy output from renewables is increasingly important. However, space for renewable infrastructure is limited and existing facilities are beginning to reach the end of their operational or consent life. Given tightening planning and land restrictions, keeping consented infrastructure in place is likely to form a key part of ensuring that energy targets are met. My PhD investigated what has been happening to existing wind and solar farms in Great Britain and how decisions are made regarding:
- Life-extension (extending the planning consent of existing infrastructure).
- Repowering (replacing sites with new infrastructure, often of a different scale and output).
- Decommissioning (removing infrastructure).
The thesis produced a wealth of data including:
- An analysis of all relevant planning and energy policies.
- Data on the age and status of all GB wind farms, incorporating details of repowering and life-extension.
- Case study research into four wind farms and one solar farm including in-depth interviews with all relevant actors (planners, developers, communities etc).
- Surveys of residents living closest to two wind farms.
The findings reveal how different actors consider the duration of sites, how their perceptions may change over time and how this is reflected in decision making. A range of potential challenges are identified including the marginalisation of publics and landscape concerns and policy challenges such as the potential for infrastructure abandonment. Theoretically, the thesis provides new insights regarding the impacts of how the planning system considers and regulates time.
A central objective of this fellowship is to develop impact through academic, policy, and industry publications and through presenting at international industry and academic conferences. It also provides an opportunity to further explore the potential for wind farm infrastructure to be abandoned through investigating regulation in America.