Billions to replace or decommission thousands of wind turbines


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The unintended consequences of good intentions: The tens of thousands of wind turbines installed in the last two decades are wearing out, and no one has the billions it will cost to either replace them or decommission them.

The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

Linowes said most of the wind turbines operating within the United States have been put in place within the past 10 years. In Texas, most have become operational since 2005. “So we’re coming in on 10 years of life and we’re seeing blades need to be replaced, cells need to be replaced, so it’s unlikely they’re going to get 20 years out of these turbines,” she said.

Estimates put the tear-down cost of a single modern wind turbine, which can rise from 250 to 500 feet above the ground, at $200,000. With more than 50,000 wind turbines spinning in the United States, decommissioning costs are estimated at around $10 billion.

In Texas, there are approximately 12,000 turbines operational in the state. Decommissioning these turbines could cost as much as $2.3 billion. Which means landowners and counties in Texas could be on the hook for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if officials determine non-functional wind turbines need to be removed.

Or if that proves to be too costly, as seems likely, some areas of the state could become post-apocalyptic wastelands steepled with teetering and fallen wind turbines, locked in a rigor mortis of obsolescence.

The key here is that wind power is simply not profitable. The turbines were built almost exclusively because of giant federal subsidies — increased significantly during the Obama administration — that are expected to cost taxpayers almost $24 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Those subsidies might disappear under the Trump administration, but even if they don’t, they aren’t there to remove turbines but to build them. The companies that built the turbines aren’t making enough to pay for their replacement.

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16 comments

  • Diane Wilson

    I’ve read estimated life of wind turbines at sea may be as low as five years, especially off the Atlantic coast.

    This whole wind-power thing has been a swindle from the beginning.

  • Cotour

    And thats not even counting all of the birds that each will kill each year.

    A new and better design is desired. Each solution usually causes three new problems, and it remains to be seen whether those new problems are worth the solution.

  • Diane Wilson

    Environmentalists were never concerned about the birds.

    Not to mention the mining wastes from the rare earth metals used in the magnets. Thorium is almost always present in those minerals, so the mining waste is radioactive.

  • Cotour

    And once the business model is invested in, not matter the down sides it must continue until those models either go bankrupt or are replaced by much newer technology which is more efficient and less expensive. The momentum of the investment must some how come full circle.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Diane, that part is good. Saves us the trouble of mining the Thorium for making power that works.

  • Sayomara

    My father has been approached to have wind mills on his ground a many times he always tells them no. Between the need for right way that will destroy crops the wind mills are always going swish, swish, swish… which can be heard inside most houses from a 1/2 mile off its not worth the trouble. And of course what happens if power company folds or wind mill breaks then you have a giant wind mill does nothing but become a hazard and cost you money. No one should be trusting government or power companies and keep these things off your land.

  • pzatchok

    But they saved three purple skipper bugs and irritated a whole bunch of people they didn’t like anyways.

    A win win for the enviroweenies.

    Its just as bad as their idea that solar panels will save the world if we just all used them.
    They tend to forget that the majority of the world doesn’t live in sunny Cali.

    If they want to save the world they should just buy a half acre and live off the grid with their own garden and chickens.

  • Diane Wilson

    Whether all that thorium is a blessing or curse depends on environmental regulation. China doesn’t have much of that, and after trying to corner the market on rare earths, they’ve accumulated a lot of thorium and they’re building thorium reactors. In the US, it’s a highly regulated radioactive waste, increasing the cost of mining rare earths, and no one is building thorium reactors…. or any nuclear power plants of any kind.

  • wodun

    Presumably they are turning a profit and that will allow them to fund remediation and replacement of turbines.

  • Phill O

    Cradle to grave engineering is needed. This is also required for electric cars and solar panels/batteries.

    However, most political decisions are not made based on science but on emotion. Science is used only to support the emotion leaving out many science truths that do not fit. Some examples are PBCs, Teflon, AGW theory, CFCs to name just a few. I have even heard of doubt shed on the research which had DDT removed.

    Billions are spent verifying the safety of agricultural chemicals but little is done to certify the safety of “green” products. Consider the use of diatomaceous earth for getting rid of garden pests. This stuff is the silicate skeletal structure of diatoms. They have very pointy ends which pierce the bugs. Think of what happens when ingested. The silicates do not dissolve (like a carbonate would) but remain on plants and when in the gut, will pierce tissue. Oh, but you say, we use only food grade stuff. Yah, right! The use of diatomaceous earth in the food industry is as a filter cake to remove foreign particles which are deleterious to quality, and the diatomaceous earth is removed from the food by the filter cake.

    No, the least safe products are the so called green ones, IMO.

  • wayne

    Phill-
    – har… I lived in Tampa for a time and knew an old-timer, honest-to-god, door-to-door salesman, who specialized in diatomaceous earth “roach powder.” (He made very good money.)

    –can’t speak to Canada, but our FDA has a “GRAS” List for anything that goes into food. (after harvest) = “Generally Recognized as Safe.”
    https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/

    (tangentially, it would be difficult for “salt” to be approved as a food-additive, (especially in California!) if it was invented today. Same goes for aspirin, on the drug side of the FDA.)

    –referencing wind mills & solar; to the extent any of these items are specifically included in the capital structure of public utilities, we will all pay for the eventual decommissioning. Can’t readily locate it, but there is as well, a strange depreciation-schedule in effect for tax-purposes, for this stuff.
    (tangent– “all-in,” I currently pay almost 17 cents a KwH in Michigan for electric)

  • Robert Pratt

    My family home and family’s farms on the great high plains of Texas are now surrounded by these ugly devices. The once quite nights (this is truly rural with huge farms and few houses within many miles) are now filled with the woosh, woosh of the blades and damned flashing red lights on top. My father refused to let them put them on his land but neighbors went for it. And the numbers expressed in this story are bunkum for our region. There is no $8000 per year, hell that would be a huge income for any small farmer with a few hundred acres. They pay almost nothing for the bits of land and access.

  • wayne

    Robert Pratt–
    good stuff.

    Check this out in Wisconsin
    “Wind Turbine Shadow Flicker and Noise, Byron Wisconsin”
    https://youtu.be/iyOImGHyJtQ
    (9:30)

    (that “shadow flicker,” would drive me nuts)

  • Cotour

    I identified this Andrea Rossi / LENR, ECAT technology out several years ago now and it seems to have progressed to a point beyond experimentation and does not seem to be going away. (Scam? Does not look that way)

    https://ecat.com/news/official-ecat-1mw-one-year-report-from-expert-responsible-for-validation

    As per this page from their web site, “the device reliably produces 6 times the input power.”

    Technology of the future here today? And no one is aware that it is here?

  • Cotour

    Now they are going to figure it out!

    http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/17/researchers-spend-625000-turbines/

    New technology or a new innocuous design. Period.

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