Survey Finds Wind Farms Yield Poor Investment

Press Release
Friday, November 16, 2012

On the basis of an exhaustive industry survey, Wind Energy Update finds that wind farm return on investment is around - 21 percent.

According to the survey, this underperformance is attributable to over-estimation of power production and underestimation of O&M costs. When it comes to turning a profit throughout the lifecycle of a wind farm, just a one percent improvement in operations and maintenance can make a huge difference to the bottom line. The challenge, however, is how to achieve that one percent improvement in the face of operations and maintenance (O&M) costs that are double or even triple initial projections.

In the early days, the industry had costed out O&M at roughly 0.5c/kw over a turbine’s 20-year life. But as newer models and their respective components continued to flood the market, this has turned out to be far from the reality. Wind O&M costs can now be expected to increase on average 253 percent over the 20-year life of the various wind machines.

“Given that every wind turbine comprises an average of 8000 components, it is not surprising that higher-than-expected rates of component failure continue to plague the industry,” say Wind Energy Update.

Understanding the root cause

The constantly evolving wind turbine market means that new components must continually be demonstrated, with little assurance of their availability five years down the track in the event of component failure.

Of even greater concern is that, if not properly addressed early on, component failures can persist through new product generations. It is therefore vital, despite pressure from competitors to continuously push the boundaries on nameplate capacities, that both the onshore industries adopt a backwards compatibility approach when evolving each model.

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