Renewable technologies must be designed for “durability, reuse and remanufacturing”, researchers have said, calling on the industry to adopt the ideas of a circular economy.
On 19 August, the University of Leeds released a study, warning that low carbon infrastructure risks making the same mistakes as oil and gas, and nuclear infrastructure decommissioning. From an in-depth review of the offshore wind industry, it found that current practices were relying on practices that hold limited sustainability benefits, such as recycling, sustainable incineration and material going into landfill sites.
Its analysis determined that industry “decommissioning plans for offshore wind are at best formulaic and at worst perfunctory and provide no value to the growing movement toward a circular economy”.
With a continuing need for low carbon infrastructure, there is added urgency for industry to develop sustainable approaches to resource management. The researchers called for the renewables industry of a circular economy, where technology design involves considering how equipment can be repaired and maintained to extend its operational life and, when reaching the end of its life, can be disassembled, reused, remanufactured and recycled.
They added that the licensing of wind farms should include requirements for sustainable decommissioning.