Among the many claims of the anti-wind power crowd is a much repeated claim that turbines have a limited shelf life, and will need replacing much too soon to be a viable financial investment.
Like any machinery, turbines do occasionally fail (and are sometimes attacked by aliens!). But new research from Imperial College London suggests that fears over the long-term viability of turbine technology are much overblown:
In a new study, researchers from Imperial College Business School carried out a comprehensive nationwide analysis of the UK fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA. They showed that the turbines will last their full life of about 25 years before they need to be upgraded. The team found that the UK's earliest turbines, built in the 1990s, are still producing three-quarters of their original output after 19 years of operation, nearly twice the amount previously claimed, and will operate effectively up to 25 years. This is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations.
That's impressive stuff, given that these were early iterations of a new technology - and much has been learned since then. Indeed, later-model turbines were already found to be out performing their earlier counterparts in terms of long-term output.
With turbine design improving all the time, including the increased popularity of simpler, gearless direct drive designs with 50% fewer moving parts, and with existing turbines getting upgrades to both software and hardware, including better monitoring and predictive maintenance features, we can expect the shelf-life of wind power to further increase over time.