Although countless onshore wind applications are still being submitted to local authorities, people are already asking “what happens at the end of a wind turbine’s life?”

This question is currently being addressed by Scottish Natural Heritage who has employed SLR Consulting Ltd. to conduct research into onshore wind farm decommissioning and restoration. An apt time perhaps to be doing so given ongoing criticism of onshore wind developments. I recently attended an interesting workshop on the subject, organised by Scottish Natural Heritage.

So what should developers be thinking about? SLR’s research will hopefully help SNH and other stakeholders produce some firm guidance on this but some considerations may be:-

  • Decommissioning plans being considered at an earlier stage. A year or so before the end of a turbine’s life may be considered too late in the game. Should developers be formulating a plan earlier on and considering regular reviews of this alongside any review of restoration bonds which have been put in place?
  • Consultation with landowners throughout the life of any scheme is pivotal. What are landowners’ expectations at the end of the scheme and what will the land use be going forward?
  • Ongoing habitat management and site restoration. Should materials be imported to regenerate the site or should natural vegetation be encouraged? Should landowners be expected to continue the good work of developers under Habitat Management Agreements?
  • Should more clarity be provided in planning conditions as to what the local authority’s expectations are at the end of the scheme’s life?

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem possible yet to put a figure on all of this and inevitably the figure will differ depending on the size of the scheme and the site itself. The key message for now seems to be consultation amongst all parties at an early stage. Perhaps this backed up by some good practice methodology issued by SNH will help us address this topical question moving forward and will give the critics some food for thought.

Alix Bearhop