The US Wind Energy System is Aging and Becoming More Expensive
The US wind energy system is getting aging and becoming more expensive to operate and maintain. The average wind project is the US is 5 years old and costs the industry $3-4 billion to operate and maintain. HS Markit, a leader in critical information, analytics, and solutions, estimates total operational; and maintenance spending for the wind energy sector will exceed $40 billion, cumulatively, from 2015 to 2025.
“The average age of the North American wind fleet will rise from 5.5 years in 2015 to 7 years in 2020, and to 14 years in 2030,” said Maxwell Cohen, senior research analyst at IHS Markit. “Along with that, equipment maintenance and operating costs are increasing significantly, leading operators to focus on performance optimization and cost management. We designed this study to help wind-asset owners compare the performance of their projects against the market as a whole, as well as to help them determine the optimal O&M strategy for their business.”
The report is taken from 300 wind farm survey that represents over 30,000 Mw of generation and 20,000 wind turbines installed. Project start and end dates range from 1994 to 2016. The data represents more than 115,000 turbine-years of operational history and gives study participants the ability to track projects and turbine performance over time. The IHS Markit study includes data on wind turbines manufactured by more than 15 turbine OEMs.
Costs for wind energy operation and maintenance is the least in the first year. It then jumps to $48,000 per Mw in the first 10 years. It then increases to between $50-60K between years 10-15 of operation.
“These turbines are massive, complicated machines, containing thousands of parts perched 25 stories or higher above ground,” Said Cohen. “Our study found that one-quarter of all turbines’ gearboxes need replacement during just the first decade of operations. Owners that perform their own O&M need to coordinate labor, spare parts, and cranes for this sort of complicated turbine maintenance, all while minimizing turbine downtime. These owners may have projects using turbines built in different years by different OEMs that are spread all across North America in remote locations, so doing their own O&M is a major undertaking.”
As the current turbines continue to age they will become increasingly more expensive. Putting emphasis on innovation and creating more self-sustaining wind energy turbines.