Texas Offshore Turbines: 50% total loss in 20 years?
A article from the New Scientist (Here) reports on a major modelling exercise done by Carnegie Mellon University. This report aims to predict how offshore turbines would stand up to the weather off the Texas coast.
The modelling predicts 50% of the turbines will be destroyed within a 20 year period. Remember that is total loss. It is not going to cover the known gearbox reliability problems (See Here) or simply the massive maintenance costs faced by any offshore structure.
Over here in the UK assorted wishful thinkers dream of huge offshore wind farms far out in the North Sea, or crammed into the shipping lanes around our coast.
Galveston Bay is of course in Hurricane Alley, but it lacks the unremitting hostility of the North Sea. For comparison, the cost of oil extraction in the North sea is among the highest, if not the highest in the world. (Wikipedia Here). This high cost is mainly due to appallingly high maintenance and support requirements.
Meanwhile over in Galveston, they have been routinely extracting oil both on-shore and off-shore (especially in shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico) since 1924. It is only since they have ventured into deep water that they have had major technical problems as displayed by the Deep Water Horizon disaster.
This North Sea maintenance penalty is going to apply to any North sea offshore structure. Even in the less hostile environs along our south coast the cost is going to be prohibitively high (that is, without massive government subsidy). It is difficult to see that offshore wind farms anywhere around our coast are going to be any more practical than that Carnegie Mellon University have found for Galveston Bay.
We have already seen one severe problem where most offshore turbines in Europe have actually shifted dangerously on their foundations (See Here) Although the wind industry has managed to (by and large) keep this major problem quiet, it bodes ill for the long term survival of these structures.
These offshore turbines, wherever they are built, are going to require enormous amounts of maintenance. This maintenance cost will far exceed the practical economic viability. Offshore turbines, like their on-shore counterparts stand no chance of ever being free of massive government subsidy.
But offshore turbines take the cost and subsidy fiasco to a totally new level.
Without doubt, the minute the subsidy stops, so will they.