Recycling wind turbines - Hero

Circular economy around offshore wind 'could create 20,000 Scottish jobs'

Image credit: EEEGR

As offshore wind helps propel Scotland towards net zero, a new report suggests that a circular economy approach around the sector could further slash carbon emissions by 34 per cent and provide an extra 20,000 jobs across the UK - an opportunity on which Scotland could capitalise.

The ‘End of Life Materials Mapping for Offshore Wind in Scotland’ report, produced by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, has identified the vast quantity of materials needed to develop the Scottish offshore wind market.

The report also highlights how these materials could be refurbished, remanufactured and recycled from wind turbine decommissioning to reduce waste and generate economic opportunities.

The report considers how the offshore wind sector could develop between now and 2050. It sets out the huge supply chain opportunity created by the volume of projected growth across Scotland as a result of the Scottish Government target to increase capacity to 11GW of offshore wind in Scotland by 2030, the ScotWind leasing round, and the Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) leasing process. If all proposed projects in the pipeline were successful, Scotland’s offshore wind capacity would reach almost 40GW by 2033.

Recycling wind turbines - inline

Image credit: EEEGR

Andrew Macdonald, director of offshore wind development and operations at ORE Catapult, said: “Collaboration between offshore wind and other sectors will be crucial to accelerating circular economy technologies and supply chains. It is an exciting prospect to take this forward with industry partners, such as Zero Waste Scotland, and show how the wind turbine, the workhorse of the clean energy revolution, will take its next steps towards circularity.”

Early estimates predict the creation of up to 20,000 jobs by 2030 with the development of a full UK circular economy supply chain including a wide variety of recycling processes, and identifies a 34 per cent carbon saving if new turbines are manufactured using recycled content.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Zero Waste Scotland is pleased to partner with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to publish this exciting report. Scotland’s renewable energy sector already plays a massive role in decarbonising Scotland’s economy and wind turbines are an important part of our green energy story.

“With decommissioning, they can also play a vital part of future economic growth supporting new jobs and skills. With up to 90 per cent of a turbine potentially recyclable or reusable, this report makes a compelling case for a planned circular approach to the deployment and decommissioning of the offshore infrastructure.

“It’s yet another example of how such an approach, where we think beyond the end of life of products and materials, we can not only make considerable carbon savings, but boost our economy through substantial job creation and development of new skills.”

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Image credit: EEEGR

It is estimated that offshore wind decommissioning in Scotland could generate 1.5–2.4 million tonnes of materials by 2050, and that up to 492 turbines will be decommissioned in Scotland, increasing by an additional 1,718 by 2065. However, it was also calculated that the growth in offshore wind will require 14.7 million tonnes of steel, 8.36 million tonnes of concrete, and 1.54 million tonnes of ductile iron casting by 2050. Other consumables required include glass and carbon fibre, neodymium and copper.

The report found that investment in a circular economy is essential in order to properly recycle wind turbines domestically and meet the target of 60 per cent UK content for future offshore wind developments. The report also highlights that sustainability within the sector will require a variety of remanufacturing and reprocessing solutions for every wind turbine component, as well as the recycling work.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to develop Scotland’s circular economy, an exercise that runs until 22 August 2022.

In pursuance of outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ambition to make the UK "the Saudi Arabia of wind", last week The Crown Estate identified five areas in the Celtic Sea where floating offshore wind facilities could be built. The areas were selected following technical analysis and discussions between the Crown Estate and the UK and Welsh governments. The facilities could deliver around 4GW of floating offshore wind power by 2035.

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