As the wind energy industry continues to grow, there has been debate about whether wind turbines have a more limited shelf-life than other energy technologies, such as solar panels. With the United Kingdom’s (UK) target of generating 15 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable resources such as wind farms by 2020, aging wind turbines could be a concern. According to researchers at the Imperial College Business School, today there are 4,246 wind turbines across 531 wind farms generating 7.5 percent of the country’s electricity.
According to a new study from Imperial researchers, who carried out a comprehensive nationwide analysis of the UK fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA, the turbines will last their full life of about 25 years before they need to be upgraded. A previous study used a statistical model to estimate that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only ten years of operation.
In response to this study, some opponents of wind power have argued that aging turbine technology could need replacing en mass after as little as 10 years. This could make wind energy an unattractive option in economic terms.
However, the Imperial research team found 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. This is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations.
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. Continue reading