The Recyclability and Environmental Impact of Renewable Energy Technology

Photo showing a MPS device being towed at sea.

We are on a mission to help create a better future. One based on clean, affordable, renewable energy using the power of the ocean.

As such environmental sustainability is baked into our vision and mission, but we are also aware that everything we do has an impact on the planet and if we are true to our values and keen to ‘do the right thing’ as much as we are ‘to do things right’ then we also need to understand the entirety of that impact and how we minimise it.

Whilst Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) is fundamental to understanding and comparing how renewable energy technologies deliver return on investment there is, surprisingly, very little research on the recyclability and environmental impact of renewable energy technology. It is only now that a significant amount of that technology is reaching the end of its life and consequently it is an issue the industry is having to face up to and find solutions for.

Enter Dafydd Herdman.

Through our membership of the, SELKIE project business network, which brings together leading researchers and businesses to improve the performance of wave and tidal energy technologies, we were introduced to internship opportunities at Swansea University. We are now undertaking a project to help understand the whole life costs and recyclability of our technology. Dafydd also brings with him very relevant research experience around the recycling of fibreglass composite wind turbine blades.

 ‘At Swansea University we are committed to producing confident, adaptable and highly-employable graduates’, comments Helyn Taylor, Graduate Support Programme Delivery Co-ordinator, Swansea University, ‘Marine Power Systems and their work is at the forefront of renewable energy solutions that can be configured to harness wind and wave power and it has been fantastic to be able to support Dafydd via Swansea University’s Graduate Support Programme, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), in a role where he is making a real impact.’

The project covers three areas. An analysis of the recyclability of our technology and possible design modifications to support that, a better understanding of the lifecycle and maintainability of our technology and an analysis of the carbon footprint associated with deploying our devices compared to competitor technologies.

‘It is hugely important that marine energy developers understand the wider and longer-term impact they are having on the environment. Early indications from the research demonstrates that the design of our devices supports a lower carbon footprint compared to other technologies. Largely down to a lower overall system mass and the modular nature of the technology which supports local content delivery through a decentralised logistics model”, Dafydd comments, “Whilst the vast majority of the materials used to manufacture our devices is recyclable further improvements in their carbon footprint can be made through careful consideration around the steel manufacturing processes we use.’

Through improved design, manufacturing and operations as well as reduced decommissioning costs we will not only be able to increase the LCOE of our devices but also the whole life environmental impact of our technology. This is very much in line with our vision for the future, one where business and technology supports both economic and environmental sustainability and builds on some of the fundamental principles of a circular economy.