SNH publishes guide on decomissioning wind farms

With recent authoritative research from Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University showing that, at 10-15 years,  the lifespan of onshore wind farms is much less than has been estimated [25 years], Scottish Natural Heritage’s [SNH] new guide to decommissioning windfarms could hardly be more timely.

Any windfarm application should be required to submit for approval details of its decommissioning programme and pay for a bond to seal the funds for this process at the outset.

It is inevitable that, as well as pre-planned avoidance strategies, there will be a series of opportunist bankruptcies when decommissioning becomes necessary – just as there has been a high birth rate of opportunistic developers in the pool of subsidies available for construction and operation.

Users pay for subsidies and community benefit sweeteners in their rapidly rising energy costs. It will be a compound abuse if the taxpayer is left to pay for the decommissioning as well.

Any windfarm operator should be legally required to comply with specified criteria determining the point of entry to the decommissioning process.

The SNH position

SNH’s new research and guidance presents what is intends to be effective methods of dismantling wind farms to ensure they leave as little trace as possible.

The organisation’s report, Research and guidance on restoration and decommissioning of onshore wind farms,  builds on the practices to date of dismantling onshore wind farms.

The research was undertaken by SLR Consulting Ltd with support from a steering group including representatives from the renewables industry.

It provides guidance on the development of a Restoration and Decommissioning Plan (RDP) template to help develop good practice guidance.

The research proposes a planned phasing out of a site to leave as little trace as possible.  The report states that early consideration and regular review of these plans by developers will benefit the environment.

Operators are being urged to build up a greater understanding of a site’s natural heritage features and how these respond to change before considering it for use.

An example of a potential future option is ‘repowering’ – where next generation turbines are built on existing sites.  This is particularly popular in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands where competition for space has encouraged diversity.

The report also examines the used turbine market.  It cites the example of the Isle of Gigha community on Scotland’s west coast, who bought three second hand Vestas machines in 2004 – known as the ‘Dancing Ladies’.

Gigha became one of Europe’s first buyers of used wind turbines, the 675-kilowatt wind farm producing enough power to meet almost all of the island’s annual electricity needs with a yearly £93,500 profit for locally-owned Gigha Renewable Energy.

More generally, the report recommends that decommissioning conditions are improved to set the scene for restoration work on areas such as peatlands.

Kenny Taylor, Renewables Policy and Advice Officer with SNH, says: ‘In our experience developers are keen to consider the issue of decommissioning their wind farm when the time comes.  We hope that they will find this report helpful in considering decommissioning options as early as possible and in the context of wider implications.

‘As well as covering the ins and outs of decommissioning, it highlights other techniques such as repowering where new technology is used to resurrect an older site and can benefit the environment by using ‘cleaner’ and newer techniques.

‘Looking ahead, the report will help developers of future wind farms to build them with decommissioning in mind.  Knowing how they will remove them will help inform how they will build them.

‘We are confident that this report will be of benefit to the industry in considering the wider implications of wind farm removal and the best ways of doing this.  What we have found is that developers are enthusiastic about safe and effective decommissioning and restoration and this report contains guidance on how to help them achieve that.

‘Our advice is that environmental statements should cover restoration and dismantling by having a detailed description of options and the impacts associated with them in future renewables work.’

And offshore?

With attention about to turn to offshore wind, it wold be helpful of SNH were to address decommissioning in that environment, in the immediate wake of the publication of their onshore guidance.

Offshore installation is substantially more expensive than onshore, as is maintenance. The fabric of the installations is subject to a wider spectrum of natural derelictions. Decommissioning and repowering will be significantly more expensive than onshore.

Guidance and statutory action on the required content of planning applications for offshore wind will be necessary before any consents are given.

Here is the full SNH report.

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16 Responses to SNH publishes guide on decomissioning wind farms

  1. I love how a paid shill for the anti-wind lobby group REF with “anonymous peer review” becomes “authoritative research” when it is mentioned on For Argyll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  2. One is always learning !
    A ‘ Shill ‘ also called a plant or stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organisation without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the …………
    REF – The Renewable Energy Foundation is a registered charity promoting sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy.
    REF is supported by private donation and has no political affiliation or corporate membership. In pursuit of its principal goals REF highlights the need for an overall energy policy that is balanced,ecologically sensitive, and effective.
    And a wee bint from Argyll has the cheek to denigrate those excellent, well intended, principals – Yea !.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  3. Only had time to skip read the report but find it strange that SNH are raising issues such as watercourses; access roads etc. which one would have thought were paramount in the EIA to get the permission in the first place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. If you can drag yourselves away from the ridiculous childish goings on with the present feeble cabal of councillors – is this what you want for Argyll ? Remember that the appointed paid officials of the council rule the roost – who as a newly elected councillor would dare to question Richard Kerr or others in the office which supposedly represents you and me and goes by the name of – The Mid Argyll Planning Department – Ardrishaig.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • If you’re going to get personal you could very easily be knocked off your perch for talking garbage, Malcolm Kirk, and you do what is a reasonable cause no good at all by spouting nonsense.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • I probably have more experience and knowledge of dealing with Planning in recent times than you do. However how do you like the views of the windfarms ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

        • I saw a much clearer view of the Brenfield propsal at the EDF presentation the other week, and people who were aware of the other, adjoining, Inverneil proposal seemed to have no difficulty in ‘putting 2+2 together’ and ‘making 4′.
          Mary Broadfoot & James Lithgow had a good letter in the Squeak last week, and – while the cynics amongst us might think this was a case of the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ – I saw it as a well-reasoned argument for an intelligent response to wind farm proposals, rather than knee-jerk acceptance or rejection.
          Whatever gratuitous comments you make about the local planners, the fact is that the council has developed a very clear policy on windfarm planning, and it’s surely up to our councillors to respect it.
          If you want something to get your teeth into, how about the way in which the large Kintyre wind farms were technically incapable of ‘helping out’ at all during the April power emergency in Kintyre & Arran? And how about the extremely rare visitor to Scotland, the White-throated needleail, that flew into a turbine and was killed this week?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • You may have seen a clearer view – as in a photograph – but you won’t have seen a more accurate view nor from these revealing positions.
            2 + 2 make 49.
            I saw the letter and, forgive me, but I think I would have to be on the side of the amused cynics.
            Re the inability of wind farms being able to supply power earlier this year is a topic you flogged to death at the time and is of no interest. What is very amusing is the headline of this rare bird getting the chop in a turbine in front of devoted twitchers. The RSPB can’t hide that one even for the £1 million pounds it gets from the wind industry. We are alone, I think, in Europe and certainly the USA in not keeping records on bird fatalities from wind turbines – £1 million is a lot of money – or is that too cynical as well.
            So the Council has developed a very clear policy ( you mean the Planning Dept and SG ) on windfarm planning and it’s surely up to our councillors to respect it. WHAT ? ? ? ? ? ? I can’t believe you said that.
            Surely all that has been going on recently is about our elected councillors being in charge – doing what they have been elected to do – not touching their forelocks to Dept heads. By all means seek information from those with past experience but be prepared to show some backbone and challenge if you think fit. But, as exposed over the last few weeks, individual thought and action are alien to our councillors apparently.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Would that be the same Richard Kerr who wrote the report recommending refusal of the wind farm over near Rosneath recently and upset the community lobby there. I thought that would have earned him a bronze star at least.

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