Will infrastructure be abandoned? International challenges in planning for the future of onshore wind and solar.

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff School of Planning and Geography

Abstract

In the context of a global transition to decarbonise the energy system, expanding energy output from renewables is increasingly important. However, space for renewable infrastructure is limited and existing facilities are becoming life-expired. Given tightening planning and land restrictions, keeping consented infrastructure in place is likely to form a key part of ensuring that energy targets are met. Most existing research in this area has focused on initial siting decisions for renewable infrastructure with a lack of consideration of what may happen in the longer-term future. Addressing this, my PhD provided the first systematic assessment of how end-of-life decisions are made, exploring how different actors consider the duration of sites, how their perceptions may change over time and how this is reflected in decision making.

The thesis produced a wealth of data including an analysis of all relevant UK planning and energy policies, data on the age and status of all UK wind farms incorporating details of repowering and life-extension, case study research into four wind farms and one solar farm including in-depth interviews with all relevant actors and surveys of residents living close to two wind farms. The findings revealed a range of potential challenges, most significantly the dominance of developer's economic calculations in shaping decisions, the marginalisation of publics and landscape concerns, but also the evident potential for infrastructure to be abandoned i.e. not removed at the end of its life. It also provided suggestions regarding how to mitigate such challenges. Theoretically the thesis provides innovative insights regarding the impacts of how the planning system considers and regulates time and reveals the benefits of applying a Deleuzian approach to exploring planning regulation. Through doing so it provides an opportunity to recast the way we think about key temporal processes such as the energy transition.

Building on the thesis findings this fellowship will be used to drive forward the following:
-Communicate the opportunities and challenges facing decision making for onshore wind and solar when sites reach the end-of-life stage and provide recommendations regarding end-of-life planning policy and the duration of planning permission.
-Highlight the risks and missed opportunities arising from elements that get left outside of the initial decision making process when planning permission is granted. These elements, such as inadequate decommissioning requirements, can return to cause challenges as the infrastructure approaches end-of-life.
-Disseminate findings regarding how community perceptions change over the life of the infrastructure and how they are often not reflected in end-of-life decision making, as well as recommendations regarding how they could be better included.
-Re-think how temporal concerns are considered within planning and the transition to low carbon energy systems, by recognising how infrastructural systems are always in a state of flux.

The aims of the fellowship can be categorised into four main areas:
1. Develop and disseminate the academic impact of the PhD research through publishing articles in three different international academic journals, contributing to the fields of energy geography, social science and planning and through presenting at an international planning conference.
2. Increase the policy, industry and societal impacts of the PhD findings through presenting at an international industry conference and publishing in a range of outputs including blogs, industry publications and policy briefs.
3. Initiate the next phase of theoretical development and empirical investigation through an overseas institutional visit and small-scale research project in America involving mapping the pathways to infrastructure abandonment.
4. Develop my skills and career as an academic through utilising the mentorship process and staff training courses.
 
Description My research findings have been shared with a wide audience including publics, planners, policymakers and renewable energy professionals. I have shared my findings with the Wind Industry at a European level, developing a network of contacts. I have also been invited to share my research to help shape policy in Scotland. My research has been cited in the House of Lords and has been used to help shape UK planning policy for onshore wind. My research has also been cited in a number of national newspapers and other media outlets
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Research cited in Scottish onshore wind policy statement2022
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.gov.scot/publications/onshore-wind-policy-statement-2022/
 
Description Supported Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change in writing a Rapid Assessment of the Opportunities presented by the BEIS Energy White Paper and the UK Government's Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
URL https://thebaccc.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/baccc_rapid-assessment-on-beis-energy-white-paper-and-t...
 
Description Article for the Conversation about onshore wind planning policy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in 'The Conversation'. (October 2020).
Title: Onshore wind farm restrictions continue to stifle Britain's renewable energy potential.
The article explained the challenges created by the current planning policy for onshore wind in England, particularly in the context of increased support for offshore wind.
The article was re-shared and discussed on social media and has been read by 3,899 readers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://theconversation.com/onshore-wind-farm-restrictions-continue-to-stifle-britains-renewable-ene...
 
Description BBC Newsnight appearance. Episode title: 'power struggle' 25 Nov 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact BBC Newsnight appearance. Episode title: 'power struggle' 25 Nov 2022
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Blog post for Association of European Schools of Planning, Young Academics Network Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog post for the Association of European Schools of Planning, Young Academics Network Blog
Title: How planners can play a key role in addressing the climate crisis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://aesopyoungacademics.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/how-planners-can-play-a-key-role-in-addressing-...
 
Description Blog post for Royal Town Planning Institute blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog post for the Royal Town Planning Institute Blog. (December 2020)
Title: Why time-limited planning permissions on wind farms need to be rethought
This blog summarised the key findings of my RTPI commended academic paper - making findings and recommendations accessible for a general audience and planning practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.rtpi.org.uk/blog/2020/december/why-time-limited-planning-permissions-on-wind-farms-need-...
 
Description Keynote presentation at Westminster Forum conference on renewable energy rollout and the planning system in England. Online. December 2022. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Keynote presentation at Westminster Forum conference on renewable energy rollout and the planning system in England. Online. December 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/conferences/westminster-energy-environment-and-transport-...
 
Description Panel member at Solar Energy and Storage Live. 18 October 2022, Birmingham. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Panel member at Solar Energy and Storage Live. 18 October 2022, Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.terrapinn.com/exhibition/solar-storage-live/index.stm
 
Description Presentation at Scottish Renewables 'A Planning System for NetZero' Seminar. 'The role of repowering in achieving NetZero'. Online. February 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at Scottish Renewables 'A Planning System for NetZero' Seminar. 'The role of repowering in achieving NetZero'. Online. February 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation at Scottish Renewables Seminar. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at Scottish Renewables 'A Planning System for NetZero' Seminar. Online. February 2021
My presentation was titled 'The role of repowering in achieving NetZero'.
As a direct result of this presentation I have been asked to provide evidence from my research to the Scottish Government to assist with the development of their new Scottish onshore wind policy statement (the request came from the head of onshore wind policy at the Scottish Government).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.scottishrenewables.com/events/125-planning-sem-20
 
Description Presentation at Scottish Renewables and Renewable UK Onshore wind conference. 7 September 2022, Glasgow. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at Scottish Renewables and Renewable UK Onshore wind conference. 7 September 2022, Glasgow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation at WindEurope Industry conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation at WindEurope Industry conference. 'End of life issues and strategies seminar'.Online. November 2020. The recording and slides are available for participants to re-watch.
My presentation was titled 'When communities do not feel the benefit. Understanding local opposition to repowering'.
Following my presentation I was part of a panel answering questions.
Following my presentation numerous members of the European Wind Industry contacted me for further information / to connect. From this I have developed my industry network. Members of this network have provided assistance in reviewing anew grant application and have agreed to participate in a stakeholder group if i am successful in being awarded funding.
As a direct result of this presentation I was invited to speak at an industry event hosted by Scottish Renewables.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://windeurope.org/eolis2020/
 
Description Project webpage containing YouTube videos and infographics. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have created a project webpage that I am regularly updating with resources including infographics and Youtube videos that explain my research to a general audience.
I have received positive feedback on this webpage and the resources that it contains.
As a direct result of my youtube videos I was invited to deliver a lecture on my research topic at Liverpool John Moores University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/research/explore/find-a-project/view/2478089-end-of-life-challenges-for-th...
 
Description Public Seminar (invited) Countryside and Community Research Institute, March 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Seminar (invited) Planning for the future of onshore wind and solar farms, Countryside and Community Research Institute, March 2021. Online
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021