New research has disputed claims that wind turbines have a limited shelf life compared with other energy technologies, making it an unattractive option in economic terms. Instead, researchers said they make an “attractive long-term” choice for energy investors.
A previous study suggested that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only 10 years in operation, at which point they could need replacing, making the industry seem like an unattractive investment opportunity.
However, new research from the Imperial College Business School found that turbines are likely to last around 25 years before needing to be replaced. The research team analysed the UK’s fleet of turbines, including the some built in 1990s.
Despite being in operation for 19 years these turbines still produce three-quarters of their original output, twice the amount previously claimed, and are expected to operate effectively for 25 years. The figure is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations. Improving technology and operations also means that more recent turbines are likely to perform even better over a longer lifespan.
The UK has a target of generating 15% of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 and the EU has set a renewable target of 27% by 2030. The targets should continue to drive growth in the industry, and coupled with the new research, show that investing in wind can be an attractive and profitable long-term investment.
Dr Iain Steffell, co-author of the paper and a research fellow at Imperial College Business School, said, “Wind farms are an important source of renewable energy. In contrast, out dwindling supply of fossil fuels leaves the UK vulnerable to price fluctuations and with a costly import bill.
“However in the past it has been difficult for investors to see that wind farms are an attractive investment. Our study provides some certainty, helping investors to see wind farms are an effective long-term investment and a viable way to help the UK tackle future energy challenges.”
A report published last year found that the UK was among the top destinations for attracting investment in the renewable and conventional energy sectors, with onshore and offshore wind coming out top.