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Recycling wind turbine parts ‘worth £10 billion to the UK’

A grouping of Scottish recyclers, energy providers and academics believes £10 billion (EUR 11.4 billion) could be generated for the UK economy within a decade from the reuse, refurbishment and re-engineering of used wind turbine parts.

The newly formed Coalition for Wind Industry Circularity (CWIC) says building capacity to refurbish wind turbine parts in the UK could also generate more than 20 000 UK jobs by 2035 and prevent more than 800 000 tonnes of parts from being scrapped.

Analysis commissioned by the coalition found around 120 000 wind turbines are expected to be operational across the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden by 2035.

CWIC comprises the University of Strathclyde, the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), energy company SSE Renewables, and Renewable Parts, a refurbishment specialist in the wind energy industry.

According to its new analysis, a UK supply chain capable of refurbishing just ten out of the thousands of parts which make up a single wind turbine could be worth almost £10 billion to the economy between 2025 and 2035. Building the capabilities in the UK to service more wind turbine parts as well as more foreign markets would increase this potential economic impact significantly.

CWIC also released the most the result of research into the barriers to circularity in the wind industry. It found most organisations were supportive of the circular economy but struggled with implementation, and the new initiative seeks to drive forward a solution.

At a launch event for the coalition, the main manufacturers of wind turbines globally, Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, GE Renewables, Nordex and Enercon, came together in Glasgow to participate in a panel discussion chaired by chief executive of trade body Scottish Renewables, Claire Mack.

Sir Jim McDonald, principal of the University of Strathclyde, says: ‘Collectively, Strathclyde and NMIS will leverage the knowledge and expertise gained from delivering several large-scale joint government-industry-academia programmes across sectors to maximise the pace and scale of impact from working with partners to support the nationally important wind sector.’

James Barry, ceo of Renewables Parts adds: ‘Our collective commitment to net zero means parts reuse must become the norm, not the exception. By rigorously applying circular economy philosophy, we can develop the technology to routinely remanufacture used parts and reduce carbon intensity.

‘In collaboration with SSE Renewables and the University of Strathclyde, Renewable Parts have developed parts remanufacture solutions that demonstrate this enormous potential. CWIC provides the opportunity for more, industry wide collaboration, creating enormous environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.’

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