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End-of-life challenges for wind and solar energy sectors

Institution: University of the West of England and Cardiff University

Wind farms are reaching the end of their operational or consent life, but there has been little consideration about how end-of-life decisions should be made.

This research investigates the use of time-limited planning consents for 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 research explores the perception and influence of all interested groups (developers, planners, landowners, communities, opposition groups etc), including asking whose interests were being reflected, whose were being left outside decision-making and with what consequences.

The findings of this research will be of particular interest to policymakers, public and private sector planners, community energy groups and renewable energy developers.

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Solar panels in the Devon countryside

This research is of importance to the planning profession because if sites are not repowered then overall renewable energy generation could decrease. But decision-making is not simple, particularly where communities were promised removal after 25 years. Additionally, the end of life of a renewable energy site provides a key opportunity to reconsider original siting decisions and to consider how we can increase environmental and community benefits.