By 2020 UK aims to produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources such as wind energy; To date, the country has 4,246 turbines spread over 531 wind farms, generating 7.5% of the country’s electricity.
Discussions took place as to whether the wind had a duration of more limited life than other existing renewable technologies. An earlier study that used a statistical model showed that electricity produced from wind fell a third after only ten years of operation. Some opponents of this type of energy have argued that aging wind technology could lead to a massive replacement of turbines after only a decade, which would make it an unattractive option in economic terms.
In a new study, researchers at Imperial College Business School conducted a nationwide analysis of British wind farm, using mainly wind speed data from NASA. This study shows that wind turbines have a longer shelf life, about 25 years before needing replacement.
The team showed that the first wind turbines in the UK, built in the 1990s, still producing three-quarters of their original production after 19 years of operation – nearly twice the number found in the previous study – and always work efficiently up to 25 years. This data is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power plants.
The study also showed that as the latest turbines were also the most successful, it suggests they may have a lifetime much longer …
“Wind farms are an important source of renewable energy. Our supply of fossil fuels makes the UK vulnerable to price fluctuations, leading to costly energy imports. However, in the past, it was difficult for investors to whether wind farms remained an attractive investment,” said Dr Iain Staffell, co-author of the study and researcher at Imperial College Business School. “Our study provides some insurance, which helps investors see that wind farms are a good long-term investment and a viable way to help the UK to meet future energy challenges.”
“There have been concerns about the issue of maintenance costs of aging wind farms and if it was worth investing. This study gives a ‘thumbs up’ to this technology and shows that renewable energy is an asset for the long term,” added Prof Richard Green, co-author of the study.
The researchers reached their conclusion using NASA data, collected over a period of twenty years, to measure the wind speed at the precise location of each onshore wind farm in the UK. They compared it with data – real – power recorded for each park. They then developed a formula that allowed them to calculate the wear of the machine affecting the performance of the turbines.
This study is therefore opposed to the previous one, which took into account only average estimates of the wind speed at the national level to determine the effects of wear and tear on the infrastructure of wind farms.
In the future, the team of scientists will explore new wind farms over a long period to determine whether advances in technology in wind turbines have a more or less significant impact on the performance degradation. This work could help researchers more accurately determine the lifetime of new wind farms and thus calculate their potential economic benefits in the long term.