Repowering Discussion and Workshop 2024

There is estimated to be 331MW of community owned renewable generation in the UK.  Surplus income from these projects, after covering costs, goes back into the community to provide a wide range of benefits including education, transport services, employment, housing, and action on poverty. Many community groups are starting to ask, what happens when the wind turbine comes to the end of its life? How will we continue to fund our community activity? 

Repowering is one answer. Repowering is a term used to describe the process of replacing existing renewable generation such as wind turbines with newer technology. Repowering can be done in many ways: refurbishing the current turbines to extend their life cycle, replacing them with second-hand turbines, decommissioning current turbines to install new ones with higher power, or replacing them with larger numbers of turbines. To explore this topic, Community Energy Scotland held a Repowering Discussion and Workshop on 27th February 2024. The aims of the event were: 

  • To gather community groups, experts, and industry to gain and share information
  • Network
  • Discuss the needs, opportunities, challenges, and barriers to repowering existing renewable generation assets

The day was split into an hour of introductions and scene setting followed by six 45-minute sessions on relevant topics and a summary. The relevant topics were permitting for repowering; technology; infrastructure; finance and ownership; operations, repair, and maintenance; and de-risking and insurance. 

Permitting for repowering 

Repowering a site will require planning permission even if it is being replaced with a like-for-like turbine. This is because planning permission for wind turbines is considered temporary and only lasts a set number of years. Depending on the capacity of the new site, this will either be determined by the Local Planning Authority (<50MW) or by the Energy Consents Team (>50MW).  Community groups are encouraged to look at when their planning permission ends and to investigate getting an extension to the consent.   

The planning landscape has changed and with the introduction of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), there is now a much higher weighting given to the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis.   

Technology 

Today’s technology is very different from when many community-owned generation assets were installed. There is a general shift across Europe of turbines getting taller with larger blades as this is the general demand on the continent. The UK has a much more constrained geographic area to install turbines and a significantly smaller market.  However, EWT offers small scale turbines, including the 250kW to 1MW range, which other manufacturers have abandoned entirely. 

Infrastructure  

The grid network is mostly constrained across Scotland, meaning straightforward connections will likely take years to be accommodated before the grid is reinforced.   SSEN Transmission have a plan for a Pathway to 2030, also known as the Holistic Network Design (HND), and the Ofgem-approved Accelerating Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI) Framework, which is enabling infrastructure to be built out at pace to meet decarbonisation targets. 

Finance and ownership 

Many community-owned wind farms were built when revenue subsidies such as Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) existed. The Scottish Government financially supported projects through the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF). These support mechanisms are now gone.  

A non–recourse loan permits the lender to seize only the collateral specified in the loan agreement, even if its value does not cover the entire debt when the borrower defaults. This is important for community groups to avoid putting their other assets at risk.   

Operations, repair, and maintenance 

Maintenance is often included in bank expectations under non-recourse loan finance. Its requirements have been relatively limited to this, but the FiT has compensated for derisking downtimes. There could be an increased reliance on long-term generation contracts and operation agreements to de-risk new financial arrangements.   

Reliable contractors that respond quickly are required for communities to keep funds coming in from generating devices.  Across the sector, there is a lack of skills and resources available for device maintenance and repairs. This is a global issue.  

THREE60 Energy is an accredited independent connection provider (ICP). ICPs can connect renewable energy projects such as wind farms, solar parks, and biomass plants to the grid. These responsibilities include designing, constructing, and installing the necessary electrical infrastructure for connecting energy projects to the grid. 

De-risking and insurance 

Howden is an insurance broker that has helped many community-owned renewable generation groups secure the necessary insurance coverage. Currently, the number of insurance companies in the market is low, and insurance coverage has been decreasing. The market is growing, so hopefully, that will create some competition in the future. Insurance to consider when repowering includes: Decommissioning insurance, Public Liability insurance, Environmental Impairment Liability insurance and Marine Transit Insurance.  

At present, insurers have minimal appetite for refurbished turbines. While there is no formal definition of a refurbished turbine in terms of insurance, it is typically those that have equipment or components taken from a previously operating turbine that has had some work done to bring them back to almost new condition but not as good as new. 

Get in touch with us 

If you would like to find out more about repowering your community wind turbine, join our Members’ forum on Repowering by getting in touch with info@nullcommunityenergyscotland.org.uk. You need to be a member of Community Energy Scotland to join but becoming a member is free  – find out more here.  

Thank you 

Community Energy Scotland would like to thank Highlands and Islands Enterprise, EWT, Scottish and Southern Energy Networks Transmission, Howden, and THREE60 Energy for the funding and sponsorship they provided. Without the funding, we could not have held the event in person. Thank you also to everyone that attended online and in person as attendees or speakers. 

From The Archive

Repowering Discussion and Workshop 2024

There is estimated to be 331MW of community owned renewable generation in the UK.  Surplus income from these projects, after covering costs, goes back into the community to provide a wide range of benefits including education, transport services, employment, housing, and action on poverty. Many community groups are starting to ask, what happens when the wind turbine comes to the end of its life? How will we continue to fund our community activity? 

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