Circular Economy: Driving Economic Growth

Published 28 July 2022

Lorna Bennet, Project Engineer and co-author of the End of Life Materials Mapping for Offshore Wind in Scotland report

The offshore wind industry has come an incredibly long way since Scotland’s first offshore wind farm was commissioned in 2010. The industry is now set to become the ‘backbone’ of the energy sector, leading the way in the green energy transition towards Net Zero. Scotland has nearly 2 GW of operational offshore wind capacity, with another 3.65 GW consented and under construction. The announcement for 25 GW of leases awarded by ScotWind in January 2022 and the expectation of up to another 4.5 GW due to be announced by INTOG later this year, shows how significant and rapid the growth of the sector is predicted to be.

There is still a long way to go to achieve Net Zero by 2045 and a significant piece of the puzzle could be met by working towards a more circular economy. We estimate that up to 2.4 million tonnes of material could be decommissioned from offshore wind farms in Scotland by 2050. With a considerable demand of 14.7 million tonnes of materials required to meet future buildout projections, reusing and recycling end of life materials we have access to will be crucial. Reusing and reprocessing materials we already have can also contribute to increasing security of supply and reduce reliance on imports, particularly during periods of turbulent trade.

Moving turbines towards zero waste provides significant opportunities for the supply chain through refurbishment and life extension, remanufacturing, reuse, repowering and upgrading of components, before we even consider material separation and recycling. Developing a more circular economy is not only better for the environment, reducing waste and carbon emissions, it has also repeatedly shown to be better for businesses, both financially and reputationally. Repair, refurbishment and remanufacture will be essential to maintain an aging fleet of wind turbines and critical to any aspirations for life extension. With the offshore wind industry in the UK on a trajectory to directly employ 100,000 people by 2030, there is a significant opportunity for a spin off circular economy to create up to 20,000 high skilled UK jobs.

You can learn more about the impact a circular economy in offshore wind will have on economic growth and reducing waste in the the End of Life Materials Mapping for Offshore Wind in Scotland report or as part of the Circular economy revolution around offshore wind could create 20,000 extra jobs news story.