Are Wind Turbines a Good Investment?

03/28/2014 |

Output study casts doubt on previous research

Wind turbine output is unlikely to decline as quickly as previous studies concluded it would, according to new research that contradicts previous beliefs about turbine lifetimes. The turbines monitored by the 20-year study are projected to last their full 25-year life before upgrades are needed.

Do wind turbines have a shorter shelf life than other renewable energy technologies?

Not according to a new study, which contradicts previous research that estimated turbine electricity output would decline by roughly one-third after a decade of operation.

Conducted by the Imperial College Business School, the study compares 20 years of wind speed data from NASA to recorded turbine output for all 531 wind farms in the U.K. Unlike the previous study, which used nationwide wind speed averages, the new study utilized wind speeds at the exact site of each wind farm to more accurately determine how wear and tear over the years affected turbine performance.

The results: even the earliest 1990s-era turbines are still producing roughly 75% of their original output after nearly 20 years of operation, making it likely that the turbines will last their full estimated life of about 25 years before upgrades are necessary.

The U.K. hosts 4,246 individual wind turbines across all of its farms that generate roughly 7.5% of its electricity. By comparison, the U.S. has more than 45,000 utility-scale turbines alone, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

A longer-than-expected lifespan could spell good things for the growing U.S. wind power industry.

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