University of Strathclyde
Engineering and Technology
Environmental and Forestry
Highlands & Islands
Renewable Parts Ltd. (RPL) is one of the leading suppliers of parts for wind turbines in the UK. They are an independent supply chain specialist, providing worldwide delivery of quality parts and consumables direct to site from an extensive collection of centrally held stock.
The UK & Ireland market for wind turbines is substantial and growing strongly, with the lifecycle of a wind turbine typically estimated to be 25 years.
Critically, as turbines age, parts consumption rises and customers begin to seek alternatives to long-term service agreements due to shortening planning horizons. This is the point that the need for repair development becomes particularly vital.
Renewable Parts Ltd were looking to develop an innovation programme for the repair of wind turbine parts requiring significant technical expertise from a Scottish university in the areas of market research, technical assessment, design and test before production-ready solutions could be delivered. Following on from this, they were also interested in setting up a Centre of Excellence hub in the field of wind turbine parts repair.
The company also wanted the academic partner to identify and work jointly with industry partners to develop these remanufactured component parts on a commercial basis.
The company was referred to Interface by Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Interface successfully matched the company with the University of Strathclyde who has expertise across the business and technology areas that the Renewable Parts Ltd project required.
In this collaborative project, the University was looking to apply a multi-disciplinary approach to identify the tasks and areas to be researched. They believed that the combination of the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the Strathclyde Institute for Operations Management (SIOM) and the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture (SIR), hosted at the University of Strathclyde, provided the multi-disciplinary approach needed for the new business models/process that Renewable Parts wanted to investigate, as well as the technology expertise required for remanufacturing of wind turbines.
The project investigated data on wind turbine component failure rates to identify which components could be remanufactured/repaired/reconditioned, and the Strathclyde team completed a report for the company which outlined a number of potential components that might be of interest.
Renewable Parts Ltd was successful in not only establishing a partnership with Strathclyde University but in securing funding from the Energy Technology Partnership. The total cost of their initial project was £23,075, with ETP contributing £13,575 in cash, and RPL contributing £9,500 in-kind.
The funding allowed RPL to develop implementation processes for two of these components, enabling the remanufacture/repair/recondition of said parts in-house. This meant that RPL could create a new manufacturing base in their original site of Lochgilphead in Argyll, an economically fragile region of the Highlands and Islands, creating jobs and supply chain opportunities.
In December 2018, the company secured a £171k grant from Zero Waste Scotland. Renewable Parts, which has an operations centre in Renfrew, will use the money for refurbishment projects developed out of Lochgilphead in conjunction with its research partner, the University of Strathclyde.
Chief executive James Barry said: “The opportunity to improve recycling rates within the wind industry is significant.” “The award provided a huge vote of confidence in Renewable Parts and the innovation programme it is driving with the university, in what is seen as a growth industry for Scotland.”
RPL are now in phase two of project implementation, pursuing funding opportunities through Government bodies and Industry, and working with University of Strathclyde as their innovation partner.
The company was a finalist for the 2018 VIBES (Scottish Environment Business Awards) in the Circular Economy category, in recognition of their commitment to tackling environmental challenges. They also reached the finals of the Glasgow Business Awards, the Scottish Resources Awards and the Inspiring City Awards.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the business
Certain commitments were pushed back for the initial few weeks of lockdown, however, with a business-as-usual approach, Renewable Parts Ltd continued to grow throughout this time and employed new members of the team in sales, HR, marketing and procurement.
This is (June 2020) a critical time for the business as the first generation of wind turbines are approaching the end of their operational lives – at around 20/25 years old – providing a significant opportunity to capture new business. The company is in the application phase for a second grant with Zero Waste Scotland to continue working with the University of Strathclyde as a partner for developing new capabilities to help its customers reach sustainable business models.