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Circular economy in action

Published 23/05/2022 by Janice Findlay 4 min read

Janice Findlay, innovation programme manager with HIE’s Co-Innovate programme, looks at an Argyll company’s circular economy project

 

Based in Lochgilphead, Renewable Parts Ltd started out as an independent supplier/broker of new parts for wind turbines, mainly supplying parts for equipment that was out of the manufacturer’s warranty period.

In recent years they have introduced an innovative new offering to supply refurbished parts, reducing costs and contributing to the circular economy.

Michael Forbes, manager of refurbishment engineering explains:

“With the growth in wind farms across the UK, we are seeing more demand for replacement parts.

“The wind industry faces major cost challenges as turbines age and part failure rates increase. Shrinking budgets and higher parts prices affect all businesses.

“A culture change driving new attitudes that adopt innovative refurbishment solutions is beginning to take hold and Renewable Parts is leading that change through its dedicated refurbishment centre.” 

The Co-innovate Programme awarded Renewable Parts Ltd a grant to employ a project manager to develop an effective, scalable process for refurbishing end of life wind turbine parts (yaw gears) and bring them back to the market as high quality parts.

Dr. Pietro Di Modica joined the business back in March 2021 bringing extensive knowledge and skills gained through his studies of mechanical engineering in Italy before completing his PhD at Newcastle University. 

Pietro has also brought experience from previous engineering roles with Offshore Renewable Energy Ltd and Doosan Babcock.

When I asked Pietro what attracted him to this role it was clear to see his passion to make the world a better place.

“I care about the environment we live in, and I appreciate the value of used, repaired, refurbished products.

“This role allowed me to do research while improving processes and product quality in a local business, as well as contributing to reducing carbon emissions by recirculating products that would go to landfill otherwise.”

Michael Forbes explains what sparked this project.

 “One of the challenges of suppling refurbished parts is being able to quality assure them and provide warranties.

“In order to promote this service effectively the company needed to undertake a more thorough programme of research and development to upscale this service with enhanced refurbishment designs, testing methods and certification.

“Successful completion of this project required expertise in reverse engineering, material testing, product design and smart rig development that we simply didn’t have within the business.

“The support provided through Co-innovate in the form of a dedicated on-site engineer project manager with additional academic expert support was the ideal solution for us.” 

Through Co-Innovate, Renewable Parts also received support to access expertise from academic partner, Daniel Trimble at Trinity College, Dublin.

Daniel provided valuable input to several aspects of the project including rig development and in-process sensing; product development and reverse engineering as well as materials testing and failure analysis.

Michael continues:

“Daniel’s skills really complimented Pietro’s and together they worked really well despite never meeting in person.”

With the 12-month project now complete, what’s next?

Validation of the quality and performance of the refurbished components is key for industry acceptance and will open up new opportunities for Renewable Parts.

Pietro will be joining Strathclyde University on a 24-month knowledge transfer partnership project in wind turbine decommissioning, with RPL as industrial partner. 

“I have learnt so much from the Co-Innovate project and it will be great to continue to work with Renewable Parts as part of this research project with Strathclyde,” he says.

From the circular economy to virtual reality. Join me for my next blog looking at how the learning environment is set to change.   

Co-Innovate supports small or medium sized businesses based in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Lochalsh, Lochaber and Argyll and the Islands. While applications for the business and academia projects are now closed, business advisers can still provide advice, signpost to relevant support and help connect to networks to those looking to develop a new product, service or process.

Co-Innovate is supported by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). It is delivered in the Highlands and Islands by HIE.

 

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