The use of low-cost, green energy is increasing in Scotland, with a recent report from WWF Scotland highlighting the benefits of wind power. However, ensuring the nation’s green energy infrastructure is adequately maintained could be a key challenge in years to come.
In a report published this week, researchers have outlined what will be required when considering the future replacement of Scotland’s wind turbines – taking into account the local ecosystem and longevity of components.
The paper, titled “Repowering onshore wind farms: a technical and environmental exploration of foundation reuse”, is published on the Open Science Framework website.
Maintaining Scotland’s Infrastructure
Wind turbines have a limited lifespan, along with the concrete bases on which they are positioned. Once a particular unit reaches the end of its life, measures to extend the life of certain components and turbines – or replacing them – are known as ‘repowering’.
As Scotland looks to wind power as a means by which to power the nation in the coming years, achieving green energy goals will require improvements to existing sites.
To meet the Scottish Government’s goal of generating unsubsidised wind energy the report suggests bigger turbines – capable of generating more energy per unit of wind speed – could be installed or existing units repowered.
The latter of these options, however, will require detailed planning which takes into account the local environment and the delicate ecosystems in which they are located.
The majority of Scotland’s onshore wind farms are located on peatlands, which help to store and collect pools of atmospheric carbon.
Professor Susan Waldron, who co-authored the report with University of Aberdeen’s Professor Jo Smith, said: “Scotland’s wind power generation infrastructure is extensive, and ensuring that the country can reach its sustainable power goals while minimising the environmental impact of repowering needs many different factors to be balanced.
“We worked closely with Arup, SSE, Scottish Natural Heritage, ScottishPower Renewables, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to consider the ecological, hydrological, biogeochemical and carbon security impact of the repowering process.”
Scotland is home to more than 3,200 operational wind turbines, with an additional 2,300 either under construction or awaiting planning permission. Only a handful of wind turbine sites have undergone a repowering process to date, however.