What is Repowering?
Repowering of a wind turbine is the replacing of the old turbine on an existing operating site with a more modern and efficient platform in order to increase the level of renewable energy output from the site. Typically a wind turbine’s lifecycle lasts 25-30 years however technology advances can accelerate rapidly within this period such that it can still make sense to repower sites before the end of their original nominal lifetime in order to maximise production.
The UK and devolved governments recognise that repowering of projects presents a significant opportunity to achieve net zero targets and Renewable UK predict that over 12GW of capacity will be delivered through repowering projects.
In Sept 2023 updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were issued which explicitly provide for a positive planning context and opportunity for repowering and life extension projects which are to be assessed in the context of the baseline from the existing site.
The Scottish Government also sets out in the recently published Onshore Wind Sector Deal as part of the ambition to achieve 20GW of new onshore wind capacity the role that repowering projects can play in delivering on this ambition.
What are the Benefits?
There are a variety of benefits from repowering, these include:
- Re-use of existing grid infrastructure – avoiding works required to connect new projects to the grid network.
- Re-use of significant amounts of civil infrastructure (tracks and crane hard standings) – typically these require minor upgrades to facilitate replacement components.
- Minimal changes to landscape – with an established project operating the changes to visual impacts are generally minor.
- Opportunities to rationalise infrastructure and number of turbines – typically modern turbines will have a larger rated power and so present an opportunity to reduce the number of turbines on a site for the same grid output.
- Significantly enhanced production output from the same site.