Wind turbines yield almost immediate net benefit | RenewEconomy

Wind turbines yield almost immediate net benefit

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A wind turbine with an estimated working life of 20 years will offer a net benefit within five to eight months of being brought online.

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CleanTechnica

wind turbinesWind energy has often been heralded as one of the saviours of planet Earth, as well as being economically beneficial and efficient: it is the oft-unmentioned winning-point for renewable technologies that they are not only environmentally friendly, but also cheaper to run and invest than traditional energy generation methods.

Adding insult to injury, therefore, for those who dismiss renewable energy — and wind energy in particular — as an effective means of moving forward, is new research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing which has determined that a wind turbine with an estimated working life of 20 years will offer a net benefit within five to eight months of being brought online.

US researchers Karl R. Haapala and Preedanood Prempreeda from the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, at Oregon State University, conducted an environmental lifecycle assessment of two 2 MW wind turbines and found that the cumulative energy payback will take place within a year of being turned on.

A life cycle assessment like the one conducted in this research looks at the net environmental impact across the whole spectrum of construction, installation, and running; raw materials, transport, manufacturing, installation, ongoing maintenance, recycling, and disposal at the end of its life.

The final analysis showed that the largest environmental impacts were caused by materials production and the manufacturing process, but this impact is paid back within 6 months. Even in the worst-case-scenarios, it is expected a wind turbine will pay for its environmental impact within the first year of its use.

 Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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6 Comments
  1. wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

    And the towers (where much of the steel material is located) would typically have a life-time that greatly outlives any turbines loaded onto them.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      20 years is probably too short a lifespan. The turbines in our first wind farm (Altamont Pass) are just now being swapped out after 30 years of service.

      They are being replaced by taller towers and larger turbines. This newer technology should last longer. Over three decades engineers probably learned a lot about design and material use. And we now have sensor technology that should make it simpler and quicker to spot maintenance issues before they turn into something major.

      • Miles Harding 6 years ago

        I agree.

        There is a lot of scope for acoustic and fibre laser systems to detect cracks in blades and structures before they become an operational issue.

        Consider major public infrastructure, such as bridges and tower buildings, which can have working lives in excess of 100 years if not too lightly built.

        With truly huge wind machines now being used (eg Enercon E126, 7.5MW), I feel that we have likely arrived at a maturation of wind turbines, where the wind machine’s replacement is likely to be similar in 20 years time, potentially allowing the tower and footings to be re-used or in-service maintenance to allow long term operation.

  2. Chatteris 6 years ago

    Presumably at some point one can consider the possibility of wind turbines being manufactured by factories themselves powered by wind turbines and other sustainable and climate-friendly energy sources. It would be interesting to know to what extent that scenario would shorten the payback time.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      We passed the point sometime back at which the world’s installed wind turbines generated more power than was used to manufacture wind turbines.

      We passed that point with solar panels a year or so ago.

      • Chatteris 6 years ago

        Good to hear it. Appreciate the info. thanks.

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