Wind Turbine Reliability and that Elephant Again

A detailed  analysis of the reliability and life span of on-shore and off-shore turbines has been produced by Professor Hughes of Edinburgh University. Because his findings are so controversial the paper has been independently statistically verified.

Far from having a lifespan of 25 years as promoted by the wind industry, it looks like the lifespan will be more like 10-15 years. Furthermore, during that 15 year lifespan, the capacity factor will progressively diminish.

Professor Hughes paper is Here
The Telegraph has also produced an article on this Here.

Professor Hughes suggests that even the wind industry has not yet realised it has this problem. Personally I think they have known about it for years.

I first blogged about the massive ongoing gearbox reliability issue (Here) This was based on this article Here. But it is not just the gearboxes. Since then we have had the grouting failure that has affected almost all offshore turbines in Europe, with many shifting on their base (Here). But these failures are just the headlines.

Yet the wind industry are in denial. Take the  pathetic bluster from RenewablesUK in the Telegraph article.

[quote] it’s very much in their interests to make sure that their turbines are maintained… to an optimum level, which includes upgrading as the technology improves. 

Anyone running machinery should optimally maintain it! But it will still wear out.

The question here is : What is the lifespan WHEN you optimally maintain it.

It sounds like the wind industry is back to relying on miracles. You know, something (as yet unknown) will come along that will make it all better. Don't forget wind turbines are supposed to be a mature technology. Sadly, whatever you upgrade to, you are simply not going to beat the laws of physics, and every upgrade is yet  another capital cost.

As any rotating machine ages it requires more maintenance. Eventually it reaches a stage where the machine requires so much maintenance it is classified as Beyond Economic Repair (BER). In other words, it is clapped out. This happens to ALL machinery. It happens to Jumbo jets, nuclear power stations, buses, cars AND wind turbines.

The wind industry propaganda has declared that BER for a turbine is 25 years. The truth, as proven by Prof. Hughes, is that the BER is reached in about 15 years.

Wind Turbines are capital intensive. The whole of their potential profitability is solely dictated by the total amount of energy they can produce over their life time. If their lifespan to BER is lowered then the possibility of them being profitable without an enormous subsidy decreases, especially later on in their life cycle.

You will also find that from a DECC document (Here) that current wind turbine annual maintenance costs range from £12000 to £110,000 per turbine. The amount is heavily dependant on the status of the warranty and consequently its age. As it gets older the maintenance cost sky rockets – until you reach BER.

With a decreasing capacity factor and an increasing maintenance cost over time, the money making years for a wind turbine are the first 5 years. Then its downhill all the way.

Turbines are medium term cash cows for their corporate owners. When they approach BER, either because the subsidy is cut or they blow up their second gearbox, they will be sold on. Then when the second/third/fourth company has run them into the ground they will be sold on again for scrap and  the  valuable components stripped out. Then they will be abandoned. In situ.

When the bailiffs finally turn up demanding the derelict  be cleaned up they will find that the “owner” is a post office box in Belize.
Guess who will get the final clean up bill.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the decommissioning costs are held in an escrow account from the outset, unlike nuclear which we all know is a decommissioning nightmare.

BilloTheWisp said...


[quote]Escrow generally refers to money held by a third-party on behalf of transacting parties.[unquote]

Are you seriously telling me these carpet baggers are handing over millions pounds up front to a trusted third party?
Any examples?

Actually what they do is enter into a "Bond" which is transferable with ownership. At the end of the line,
the postbox in Belize will hold the bond.

Why are you so naive? Just Google "14000 abandoned wind turbines" That is what has happened in USA.
Do you really think it will be any different here? If so, why? You must realise that we are not dealing with cuddly care-bear hugging sweeties. These
are hard core ruthless (and usually faceless) corporations.

Nuclear decommissioning: All of the technologies needed for all aspects of nuclear decommissioning were worked out twenty years ago and are currently
implemented by the French. Implementation here has been roadblocked by scare mongering and self serving paranioa spread by the likes of WWF and Greenpeace.
Compared to the issue of climate change (or plain old pollution if you like) nuclear waste is a small problem both in quantity and technical difficulty.
It is though a large political problem due to the misinformation from your friends in WWF et al.

In the final analysis in France electrical generation (80% nuclear) produces about 80gm CO2 per KW/hr. In Germany where 15% nuclear is being shut down and
they have their swarm of windmills and roof mounted solar it is 450gm CO2 per KW/hr. They are currently building lignite burning coal plant to
replace their nuclear so this is only going to get worse.

Read this post (not by me) It is an enlightening and entertaining rant though a little long.
(believe me, it is not often I side with an animal rights campaigner)

The current obsession with wind turbines is little more than a vacuous and expensive fashion statement. We don't need fashion statements.
We need carbon free or low carbon power generation that works.

BilloTheWisp said...

My apologies on the poor formatting on the above comment... I pressed publish too soon.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Escrow account and for other financial information I'm sure you will find interesting, check out this sales brochure for a forest with 2 turbines leased:

I agree with you on the need to do something really quickly to curb our GHG emissions and there may be an argument for nuclear to provide some base load but it doesn't help balance the grid, nuclear takes days to fire up and wind down. However wind turbines can be quickly switched on and off - so long as the wind is there of course.
The decommissioning of nuclear plants are well known. The process at Winfrith is unfinished because they've run out of money.
But if you cannot abide the visual appearance of wind turbines then maybe the cost of nuclear is worth bearing.
What are your views on the high prevalence of leukemia in this area and downwind of Winfrith?

BilloTheWisp said...

Thank you for an interesting and challenging comment. Sorry the reply is so long but you raise some interesting points that deserve a full reply.

Yes, the estate agents advert you reference mentions an Escrow account has been set up. But gives no further details. I have yet to find any other mention of an Escrow for a wind farm other than from this one estate agent.

A couple of examples:
This brochure refers to money held in a Bond. A bond (see wikipedia) can be regarded as a "loan" from the council to the windfarm which will be "repaid" to the council by decommissioning the site (i.e. by the last owner of the site) Interestingly in this brochure the wind farm appears to actually suggest that this money should be used by the council/land owner to do the decommissioning themselves! Maybe they intend to be long gone.

Now Another: This one suggests the decommissioning cost will be covered by the scrap value of the turbines, something that folk in the USA have found to be utterly false.

Even then, both of these examples are extremely vague about getting rid of the base. It looks like they intend kicking a bit of dirt over it and walking away. Great.

If you can show that Escrow arrangements are the norm rather than a one off (in order to sell the land) I would love to see your evidence. With little effort on Google I can dig out another half dozen "Bonds" and other fiddles.

Yes; Current nuclear is base load. As it is in France. Again I repeat: France CO2 80gm per KW/hr Germany 450gm per KW/hr

Wind is very far from capable of filling in the gaps. It is unreliable - you need reliability especially for managing short term unpredictable events. That is why Pumped hydro and OCGT are used for this. It needs to be available at a moments notice and be guaranteed for a defined time until you can actually ramp up some more base load if necessary.

The decommissioning at Winfrith has stopped because it can. There is no urgency or safety issues. Don't expect the government to spend money on things they can put off for somebody else to sort out. The best thing that could happen to Winfrith would be for a new reactor to be built there. Then the other old three relics would be dealt with AND Dorset would have all of its electricity from a carbon free resource.

Now I get to the bit that I find the most contentious and I really would like a reply to:

Where is your evidence for a Leukaemia cluster "downwind of Winfrith?" Where is the peer reviewed or even non peer reviewed evidence? Have you any?
I would love to see it. I have tackled this accusation on this blog before. Then it came down to scare-mongering, rumour and false interpretation from
foreign data particularly the Kikk report. The Kikk report in reality actually disproves any "downwind" risk around German reactors! Pity it wasn't
read before it was referenced.

Please - I would like to see your evidence. Believe me, I will read it and any references, and I will reply.

Or is this just more heresay and innuendo?