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.
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.”
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.