Circular Economy

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STIRLING: A report by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) says the decommissioning of 5,500 onshore wind turbines across the country by 2050 will produce 1.4 million tonnes of recyclable materials and an opportunity to expand the country’s nascent circular economy.

With 80 percent of the average wind turbine recyclable, the largest amount of material waste will be 1.1 million tonnes of steel, 142,000 tonnes of iron, 24,000 tonnes of copper, 63,000 tonnes of fibreglass, and 94,000 tonnes of resin and balsa wood.

According to the report, decommissioning is becoming a practical problem for many European countries with 34,000 turbines 15 years or older. Onshore wind is a key element in Scotland’s transition to renewable electricity, providing 70 percent of its generation capacity in 2019. The country was an early adopter and with an average lifespan of 25 years, many of its first installed turbines are becoming redundant.

By 2040 ZWS expects 250 turbines a year being decommissioned from 800 locations across the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, the Central Belt, Dumfries and Galloway.

“Like anything else, wind turbines and their parts require maintenance, refurbishment and eventually reach an end-of-life,” said ZWS head Iain Gulland. “In forecasting the scale of materials set to be released through wind turbine decommissioning, this report presents Scotland with a fantastic opportunity to embed circular solutions into the resource management of these materials.”

The report also identifies a need for reprocessing infrastructure and storage locations, the development of a decommissioning hub at a port on the central-eastern coast of Scotland and opportunities to increase employment skills and expertise in reuse and refurbishment.
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