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.
...so 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.