The Long-Term Costs of Wind Turbines

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  • Wind energy is experiencing a boom, but in a pattern eerily reminiscent of the nineteenth century Pennsylvania oil boom, wind farms are building ever larger turbines to farm wind energy further and further from shore. This trend carries risks, especially as turbines come with largely hidden costs. Increasing evidence suggests that although larger turbines can capture more energy, at a certain point the costs of maintaining and decommissioning large turbines located far offshore will outweigh the benefits of that energy capture. If wind farm operators are to avoid creating an environmental and economic disaster in the longer term, they need to begin factoring realistic maintenance and decommissioning costs into their projections.

    In 1859, the town of Titusville in Pennsylvania vaulted into the limelight when Edwin Drake struck oil, thereby marking the inception of America’s oil industry. With an initial depth of 69.5 feet (roughly equivalent to the blade size of a 0.5 MW wind turbine), Drake’s well set the stage for an unprecedented era of economic prosperity.

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