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Published on February 21st, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Wind Farms Blow Away Old Criticism — Research Shows That Wind Turbines Remain Productive For Up To 25 Years

February 21st, 2014 by  


While wind energy has become an increasingly common development choice in recent years, there has been some criticism of the technology — of particular interest in that regard was a study released relatively recently that suggested that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only ten years of operation.

It turns out, though, according to new research from the Imperial College Business School (utilizing local wind speed data from NASA), that that worry is unfounded — wind turbines can remain productive, with no need of upgrade, for up to 25 years. The previous work, which was based entirely on a (questionable) statistical model, simply didn’t reflect the reality in the field.

Blacklaw Wind Farm, the UK's most powerful onshore wind power installation

Blacklaw Wind Farm at dawn


The new work was simply a “comprehensive nationwide analysis of the UK fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA” — an analysis that showed that the “UK’s earliest turbines, built in the 1990s, are still producing three-quarters of their original output after 19 years of operation, nearly twice the amount previously claimed, and will operate effectively up to 25 years.” So much for the doom-saying. 🙂

The new findings show that wind turbine longevity is directly comparable to that of the gas turbines used in power stations.

Imperial College London provides more:

The study also found that more recent turbines are performing even better than the earliest models, suggesting they could have a longer lifespan. The team says this makes a strong business case for further investment in the wind farm industry.

The researchers reached their conclusion using data from NASA, collected over a twenty year period, to measure the wind speed at the exact site of each onshore wind farm in the UK. They compared this with actual recorded output data from each farm and developed a formula that enabled them to calculate how wear and tear of the machinery affects the performance of the turbines. This is in contrast to the previous study, which only used the average estimates of nationwide wind speeds to determine the effects of wear and tear on wind farm infrastructure.

Professor Richard Green, co-author of the new study, stated: “There have been concerns about the costs of maintaining aging wind farms and whether they are worth investing in. This study gives a ‘thumbs up’ to the technology and shows that renewable energy is an asset for the long term.”

The researchers are now planning to continue their work by monitoring newer wind farms, over longer periods of time — looking to determine more accurately exactly how long newer wind farms will last.

Image Credit: Lockie (CC BY-SA 2.0 license)


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.



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