Wind Performance Over Time

March 14, 2013


So there’s a group in the UK called “The Renewable Energy Foundation”, right? You’d be forgiven if you thought that was a group that supported renewable energy, but you’d be wrong. It is, of course, another fake “grass roots” group dedicated to poisoning dialogue and feeding the right wing echo chamber with bad information.  I hear some of their most recent nonsense from otherwise intelligent people, and some of that has made its way into comments here, so it seems reasonable to post a response from Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association.

Power of Wind:

There was quite a bit of ballyhoo around the anti-wind network a few weeks ago concerning a study funded by the misnamed Renewable Energy Foundation (a British anti-wind group). The study suggested there was an issue with wind turbine performance over time that would have a negative impact on wind energy’s economics. We cross-posted the European Wind Energy Association’s response, which described the wind turbine life span study as “propaganda,” here. (see below)
Now a new analysis from energy economics and technical expert David Milborrow, a longtime contributor to the publication Windpower Monthly, has found that the output of older wind farms in Denmark, where some of the first wind farms in Europe (both land-based and offshore) were built, has remained strong.  Quoting Mr. Milborrow’s conclusion:
“REF’s report suggests that the capacity factor of Danish onshore wind farms falls off by four percentage points over 15 years, whereas an analysis of the capacity factor of 20-year-old turbines suggests that the degradation only amounts to about 0.7 percentage points over 20 years. REF says performance of offshore wind turbines falls by 30 percentage points over ten years, from 40% to 10% approximately, whereas an analysis of the data from the longest-running Danish offshore wind farms reveals that two of them have increased in performance, and the third has only recorded a 1.5 percentage-point drop in capacity factor, extrapolated to 20 years. It is not clear what accounts for the discrepancy between the analysis laid out above and the REF work.”

Concerning the Renewable Energy Foundation, EWEA’s previous response noted, “The Renewable Energy Foundation claims to be ‘a registered charity promoting sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy’ although [its] website is made up almost exclusively of criticism of wind energy.”

European Wind Energy Association:

The anti-wind energy Renewable Energy Foundation yesterday published an “anonymously peer reviewed”  study by wind energy critic Professor Gordon Hughes (author of ‘The myth of green jobs’ and ‘Why wind energy is so expensive’) claiming that the economic life of wind turbines is 10-15 years rather than the 20-25 years stated by the wind industry.

Given that the author and publisher have a history of attacking wind energy and the fact that they do not say who peer-reviewed the study, perhaps one should not take the study too seriously. But that does not stop it being reported in the British media.

But at least some papers showed some scepticism. The Financial Times reported that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change rejected Prof Hughes’ findings. “Our expectations of wind turbine lifetimes are based on rigorous analysis and evidence,” the department said. “Britain’s oldest commercial turbines at Delabole in Cornwall have only recently been replaced after 20 years of operation, and the technology has come on in leaps and bounds since that project started generating in 1991.”

The Financial Times also quotes Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, one of the UK’s oldest renewable energy companies, saying the study was “just more anti-wind propaganda”.

“Today’s turbines have been designed and built to last 25 years,” he said. “In fact Ecotricity’s first turbine was built 16 years ago using old technology and is performing better than ever and will still be around for its 25th birthday.”

RenewableUK’s Director of Policy Dr Gordon Edge also rejected the study saying  “it’s absurd to focus purely on the past as this report does, and pretend that that’s the way things are going to be in the future.”

“If what REF is claiming were true, then the industry simply wouldn’t be able to raise money – the fact that investors have remained confident in the wind energy sector demonstrates their confidence in the technology.”

In Scotland The Herald quotes Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables,  saying “Let’s also remember that Gordon Hughes’s previous research on wind energy has been described by the UK Energy Research Council’s Dr Robert Gross and others at Imperial College, London, as ‘economically irrational, a nonsense scenario’ and ‘economically absurd, spurious and misleading’.”

The Renewable Energy Foundation claims to be “a registered charity promoting sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy” although their website is made up almost exclusively of criticism of wind energy.



24 Responses to “Wind Performance Over Time”

  1. Jason Says:

    The thing I find interesting with Hughes ~ who authored the dodgy dossier ~ is that he’s a semi fully paid up working academic.

    He knows the philosophicals of why you publish in the proper literature. He knows the standards expected. He even knows the right journals to approach to publish research into the economics of wind turbines.

    So what does he do? He publishes his ‘research’ via Noel Edmonds’ hobby anti-wind lobby group.

    It’s a Direct-to-VHS-Wacky Website release.

  2. daveburton Says:

    Nuclear capacity factors are typically around 90%, but the German nation-wide average wind capacity factor for 2012 was apparently just under 17.5%. I.e., actual generated power was 17.5% of nameplate capacity, despite the fact that a lot of their windmills are pretty new, and electricity prices there are so extraordinarily high there (thanks to the “green” politics) that there’s a strong incentive to keep the turbines well-maintained and running. Where electricity prices are lower, that incentive fades.

    I expect wind to blow, but that really sucks.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Based on your boneheaded cartoon from a bogus anti science blog, we’ll look for the imminent demise of the German economy,

    • mrsircharles Says:

      Yeah. WUWT sucks. Right.

      French nuclear has a capacity factor of about 70%. They had to buy German electricity during several heatwaves because they had to shut down some overheated reactors. When a nuke shuts down you’re losing gigawatts within a finger snap. Meanwhile wind is only gradually intermittent and can be forecast for many hours in advance.

      • ontspan Says:

        And the Germans help keep the French grid alive during cold spells too, because the power consumption of the poorly isolated French buildings which they heat using a lot of resistance heating rises dramatically for every degree the temperature drops. This increase often cannot be met by the nuclear reactors who make up for 80% of French electricity production.

        When the American nukes came online in the 70s and 80s the average capacity factor of these nukes hovered around 58%. When visiting a nuke on a random day, four out of the ten times you would not be able to see a running reactor. Only through many years of learning to operate those nukes have utilities been able to increase their reliability.

    • SciAm blocks posts containing 4chan and Watts links. If you post Watts you are tattooing “stoopid” to your forehead.

      • Cape Wind Offshore wind turbine project. This project is rated at 468 mw and will produce 143 mw after applying a capacity factor of 30.4 %, as calculated by the University of Delaware of the proposed Maryland offshore project life cycle is 20 years therefore this project will produce 24.6 Terawatts life cycle. Insofar as the location of this project is enshrouded in fog 200 days a year a low wind velocity environment the 30.4% Capacity Factor appears to be overly generous. Recent Data from Denmark indicates 10 year effective life cycle less what is euphemistically referred is “re equipping”, read replace, and 20% Capacity Factor.
        A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 MILLION. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 Terawatts life cycle.
        Cape wind project in nantucket sound has been approved. the project will cost $2.6 BILLON, and it has secured funding for $2 billon of that from a japanese bank. but this is believed to be subject to the project gaining a loan guarantee from the u.s. department of energy. the contracted cost of the wind farm’s energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 % annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $0.38 per Kilowatt.
        Bottom line, $311 Million 133 Terawatts. $2.6 Billion 24 Terawatts. In other words, it will take minimally $14.4 Billion worth of Cape Wind to produce the output of one CCNGT plant.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          There are some very, very ordinary onshore wind farms that are getting better than 30% capacity factor over their lifespan and offshore is even more productive.

          You mentioned Denmark? Check out these numbers:

          Twenty-three year old Vindeby & 14 year old Middelgrunden are the only ones below 25% and the latter is known for steady breezes, not powerful ones.
          So while its capacity factor is middling, its availability factor is very high.

          Even 20 year old Tuno Knob has a lifetime capacity factor of 30%.

          Cape Wind is supposed to have an overall capacity factor of 38%, which is not impressive by modern expectations for wind farms but is almost certain to be higher by the time it’s built as turbines are still improving, especially their low-wind output.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      See the link below for a rebuttal of the oft-touted story about renewables making electricity in Germany expensive.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Hotter summers are going to have an impact on nuke plants as they need lots of cool water.
      It’ll happen a lot sooner in the US than France due to geography but it’s only a matter of time.

      Newer wind farms have much better capacity and availability factors because of better design, layout and siting.
      It won’t ever get to 90%, which took decades for nukes, but some are already in the high 30s to low 40s.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        – and, with price from wind continuing to drop due to better technology and mass production.
        Hot summer days can be poor for wind in some areas as well. Fortunately, photovoltaic solar just about perfectly fills that gap, and PV is coming on like gangbusters.

  3. skeptictmac57 Says:

    This reminds me of the AVN or Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network,whose ostensible mission is to educate people about vaccines,but was wholly about pushing anti-vaccine propaganda.

  4. […] So there's a group in the UK called "The Renewable Energy Foundation", right? You'd be forgiven if you thought that was a group that supported renewable energy, but you'd be wrong. It is, of course…  […]

  5. Wind turbine lifetimes are easily provable. Many wind farms started in the early 90s are still running today, not just most of the turbines, but all of them. They are extraordinarily reliable.

    The whole argument about capacity factor is completely bogus. Which gets the highest electric rates, peaking gas, or night time base load? Daytime electricity is much higher value than night time. So low capacity factor peaking is more valuable. Turns out, so are wind and solar which can follow the load and peak naturally when the load peaks. A lower capacity factor energy source that follows load is worth more, not less, than a high capacity factor source that cannot follow load.

  6. […] Wind Performance Over Time. Wind haters (aka windbags) makin’ stuff up; wind industry responding. […]

  7. […] 2013/03/14: PSinclair: Wind Performance Over Time […]

  8. MorinMoss Says:

    Peter, thanks for posting this story, which is related to a discussion in the comments of the “Georgia Nuke Boondoggle” story between kap55 and myself.

    It was kap55 who posted the link to that garbage study by Hughes and I’m grateful to ontspan for pointing out that the raw data didn’t support the conclusions and inspired me to take a closer look at the Danish farms output and stats.

    My opinion of the REF group is that they’re Heartland-lite, selling doubt but not nearly as nefarious.
    But they’re still very much a bunch of windbaggers.

  9. When I read a post like this, reeking of the True Believer, I am reminded of a post I read on the subject of induced ignorance.

    Robert Proctor coined the term ‘agnotology’ the study of how ignorance, particularly in scientific, military and technical matters, can be manufactured, manipulated by strategies and campaigns dominated by vested interests. I assumed that the author would be applying this term to the climate change purveyors insofar as this perfectly describes the current state of Anthropogenic Climate Change junk science. How naive.

    So I decided to coin a synonym ‘agendaist’, but someone beat me to the punch, onyxhawke defines
    agendaist as individuals who unlike most of the rest of us can only focus on one thing and their agenda is the prism through which all things are viewed, it is the one true yardstick, and the alpha and omega of their existence. They do come in all flavors, although thanks the prodigious effort they put into focusing on their totem there is no room for any other neurological function. All their efforts are twisted to viewing the entire world into classifying everyone as either with us or against us. Example is “Denier”, a not so subtle pejorative referring to Holocaust Denial. Therefore I will posit that it is perfectly appropriate to refer to Anthropogenic Climate Change agendaists as climate change Nazis, as Dr Roy Spenser has suggested.

    This sort of obsessive, or more accurately, pathological behavior will cause an Agendaists to take a statement by a person they’ve probably never met or interacted with in anyway, and twist it to fit their agenda.

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