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Engineering Materials
Wind Power Operating, Maintenance Costs Drop 38 Percent
11/28/2012

The costs of wind power are falling, not only for turbine cost and performance, but also for operating and maintaining wind farms. Shown here, Siemens service engineers work in a wind turbine's gondola.   (Source: Siemens)
The costs of wind power are falling, not only for turbine cost and performance, but also for operating and maintaining wind farms. Shown here, Siemens service engineers work in a wind turbine's gondola.
(Source: Siemens)

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naperlou
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economics getting better
naperlou   11/28/2012 10:50:49 AM
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Ann, that is an interesting point you raise.  As costs come down, the payback period will shorten. 

Actually, I was visiting a cousin who has a farm in central Illinois.  As we were driving to lunch one day I noticed the one wind turbine in the area.  On asking him about it, he said the problem was the payback period on them.  I guess some people get paid rent to allow tuebines to be sited on their land (like farming rents) while others get involved in the financing of the turbines. Even for turnines to power the farm itself, he said that these are way too expensive to be worth it.  These guys are very practical and hard headed.  If it does not make sense they don't do it.  They are also generally well educated, informed and tech savvy these days.  They have to be. 

On a related issue, I asked him about corn stalks for ethanol production.  They were all still laying around his farm and all the others in the area.  I guess the problem is that they have to bundled to be sold to the processors.  As long as crop prices are so high because of international demand it will not be worth the extra time and effort for the farmer to do this. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: economics getting better
Ann R. Thryft   11/28/2012 11:32:05 AM
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Thanks for your comment, Lou. Since most of the technical and manufacturing efforts for wind turbines right now appear to be aimed at making them in high volumes for wind farms, I'm not surprised that an individual agricultural farmer finds a single wind turbine impractical and payback is slow. It doesn't sound like the rental model is working very well for the individual farmer, but that model could, of course, be tweaked to make it more attractive and productive.

Jerry dycus
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Re: economics getting better
Jerry dycus   11/28/2012 3:08:47 PM
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               That WT's in small sizes are not really cost effective is because of greed, bad busines model or something else as I can make them for well under $1k/kw vs the $4k/kw most units cost now.

 

             Remember they perfected them in the 30's!!!!  Many of them are still running like the Jacob's and others.

 

             A 2k WT enough to run an eff home in an average wind site is more simple than a moped!!  So why are they so expensive?  I see a great market with large profits I'l be filling within a yr.  I can get 200% profit and still beat the others by 50% and even beat the Chinese. 

              I did go into production of some in the late 70's but the market wasn't there but it is now for a quality unit.

 

              Done right they need little maintaining other than a yrly check and new bearings every 3-5 yrs if designed and built right.

 

Nancy Golden
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Re: economics getting better
Nancy Golden   11/28/2012 3:46:16 PM
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Every time I drive through West Texas I wonder why we don't hear more about energy from wind farms - they are certainly out there and at least in Texas there are many more than a single turbine on the occasional farm...seems like these technologies have been around a long time (like solar) but are extremely slow moving. Some folks are fascinated by renewable energy and are determined to live "off the grid" but it just doesn't seem to be very popular in the mass market place...

Rob Spiegel
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Competitive with gas
Rob Spiegel   11/28/2012 4:35:32 PM
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Nice article, Ann. That's quite impressive that wind is becoming competitive with gas and coal, especially with gas costs moving so low. This is very good news for alternative fuels.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Competitive with gas
Ann R. Thryft   11/28/2012 4:43:14 PM
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Thanks, Rob, I agree about the good news. I find Jerry's input about what I expected, meaning, here's a technology that's not too expensive and it's been around a long time, but has not seen mass adoption. I think much of the reason has little to do with economics or technology, and more to do with psychology. It's the early adopters vs the mass market, as we've seen in many industries, most notably personal electronics. And not that many people live on farms or in the country anymore.



NadineJ
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Re: economics getting better
NadineJ   11/28/2012 5:49:16 PM
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You make a good point.  The ROI increases as more users/buyers invest.  I'm curious to know how the savings break down.  Has the initial cost dropped significantly or just operating?  Or, is long-term maintenance where the significant savings are?

Where the savings lie makes a difference for future investors. 

And, on a separate note, better design would help lesson the NIMBY factor.  Many communities still fight against wind farms as a visual blight.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: economics getting better
Ann R. Thryft   11/28/2012 5:57:11 PM
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Nadine, I like your point about visual appeal, or lack thereof. They are not fun to look at, although the ones in California I've seen tend to be located away from people.

mr88cet
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Silver
Re: economics getting better
mr88cet   11/29/2012 9:23:12 AM
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I personally have no concerns about the appearance of modern windmills.  I don't understand why anybody would find them aesthetically intrusive.  I find their slow steady turns fascinating to watch! 

Charley468
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Iron
Re: economics getting better
Charley468   11/29/2012 9:30:13 AM
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I am glad to see that the price is dropping, but you did not say anything about storage. How can wind generation amount to more than a couple percent without some way to store the generated energy?
When the wind stops, is it not true that the generator draws energy from the grid to keep it warm, to spin it up as the wind increases, control circuits, etc.?
And with absolutely no energy storage there must be a coal /gas / ?? always running at 100% to pick up the complete load within a couple cycles of the wind dropping (or cloud crossing the sun).

Without storage solar and wind (even if the hardware were free) can never amount to more than 10% of energy needs. True, we could put up enough generators and solar panels to cover all demands... momentarily, but night comes when no panel works, and days come when even the Santa Ana winds don't blow.

We need storage to be a viable energy source.

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