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Repowering: creating a positive future for onshore wind

Karen Anne Hutton is Head of Repowering at RES and she will be among the expert panel for RenewableUK’s Onshore Wind webinar, “Repowering the UK”, on Wednesday 23 June. She offers some insight into where the industry is now and how RES can support those looking to repower an old project.

When we talk about repowering, what we mean is taking existing operational sites and redesigning them from scratch with today’s knowledge, experience, turbine technology and best practice guidelines.

One of the key benefits of repowering is that some of the original sites have some of the best wind speeds, which can create the potential for lower cost energy to benefit both industry and consumers. Repowering also gives asset owners visibility of their investment pipeline for added confidence.

In addition, we have far more knowledge of these particular sites, and whilst new environmental surveys, access assessments and wind speed measurements may be required to install bigger wind turbines, these can be easier to complete when you understand the location, the community and any issues previously encountered.

Of course, there are still some challenges to overcome for successful repowering. Repowering often brings the potential to increase installed capacity so grid can be very important. The availability of additional grid capacity with suitable connection dates can have an impact on both the project feasibility and the repowering programme.

Looking ahead, there are some really positive things happening in the industry at moment. We have the Climate Emergency Declaration, net zero targets, and the reopening of the CfD scheme to onshore wind in GB. All of these create positivity around the sector. In terms of the wider framework, the planning process and ability to get consent as efficiently as possible is always going to be important. We need all of this to support repowering and anything that helps to shorten turnaround times will further encourage development – both when repowering sites or designing new ones.

One issue that we should all be continuing to push and lobby for when it comes to planning, would be a presumption in favour of repowering and life extension, helping us build capacity in conjunction with new greenfield sites, rather than risk eroding it. There will also always be a need to ensure that the grid supports increasing capacity of onshore wind. These may be challenges yet to face, but they are also opportunities to identify what we could achieve and work together to get there.

From our perspective at RES, we are helping clients explore their assets’ end of life options. It is hugely beneficial to consider an asset’s end of life strategy early on, as it can help inform the maintenance strategy, inform project optimisation and enable the owner to get the most from their asset. We’re here to support, consider available options and then help implement the most suitable solutions.

Finally, it is worth noting that repowering may only be part of the solution. Some sites might benefit from implementing life extension to give you sufficient time to secure a repowering consent, and if the asset is near the end of its life, you might even need to work on both repowering and life extension in tandem to ensure maximum flexibility. Strategies will differ based on the assets themselves, what options are feasible for the site, and what the owner’s long term goals for the site are. Finding the most suitable option for each site at the right time is important for the continued and accelerated growth of onshore wind.

To hear more from Karen Anne and several other industry experts, register for the Repowering the UK webinar here.



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