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End-of-Life management of wind turbines, PV modules and Lithium-Ion batteries: Current practices and closing the circular economy gap

Woo, Su Mei (2020) End-of-Life management of wind turbines, PV modules and Lithium-Ion batteries: Current practices and closing the circular economy gap. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Renewable energy generation and increased electrification are pivotal to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. Consequently, global deployment of wind turbines, PV modules and electric vehicles has soared, and the trend is expected to continue. These technologies have only recently started reaching the end of their design lives, and rapid escalation of end-of-life (EoL) waste volumes are projected. This study responds to the imminent waste issue by researching current EoL management practices, initiatives and regulations of these three technologies in Canada and globally. Through extensive literature review and communications with select experts in the EoL field, it also seeks to identify factors that impede current EoL management efforts to close the circular economy gap and those that can support the overall sustainability of deploying these technologies.

The EoL management of these technologies is in the early stages and many innovative initiatives are being explored and developed. There are currently few proven business cases, and barriers to the EoL strategies’ profitability and effectiveness include insufficient waste feedstock, inadequate collection infrastructure and second-life markets, and uncertainty about the assets’ remaining useful life. Designing for circularity, collaboration between supply chain stakeholders, circular business models and technology-specific regulations that incorporate extended producer responsibility, second-life targets and circular solutions can help progress the technologies toward improved sustainability.

The research found that EoL management is a complex but necessary undertaking that needs to consider multiple, often conflicting factors. Additionally, the technologies and their EoL management practices are dynamic and fast-changing. Hence this study's findings are best viewed as compelling evidence of the increasing need for robust EoL management and a demonstration of potential solutions rather than absolute conclusions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Engineering and Energy
United Nations SDGs: Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Goal 13: Climate Action
Supervisor(s): Whale, Jonathan
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