Wind Turbines: lucky to last 10 Years


An early “retirement” …


Dr Gordon Hughes is a Professor of Economics at the University of Edinburgh and a while back produced this cracking study which destroyed yet another wind industry myth about the longevity of their giant fans: windfarm peformance UK hughes.19.12.12.

Instead of the much touted 25 years, the output from modern turbines starts to drop significantly after about 8 – and they’re well and truly ready for the scrapheap by the time they hit their teens. Here’s a story on Dr Hughe’s findings by The Courier.

Wind turbines’ lifespan far shorter than believed, study suggests
The Courier
29 December 2012

SCOTLAND’S LANDSCAPE could be blighted by the rotting remains of a failed regeneration of windfarms, according to a scathing new report.

A study commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation has found that the economic life of onshore wind turbines could be far less than that predicted by the industry.

The “groundbreaking” research was carried out by academics at Edinburgh University and saw them look at years of windfarm performance data from the UK and Denmark.

The results appear to show that the output from windfarms — allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics — declines substantially as they get older.

By 10 years of age, the report found that the contribution of an average UK windfarm towards meeting electricity demand had declined by a third.

That reduction in performance leads the study team to believe that it will be uneconomic to operate windfarms for more than 12 to 15 years — at odds with industry predictions of a 20- to 25-year lifespan.

They may then have to be replaced with new machinery — a finding that the foundation believes has profound consequences for investors and government alike.

Members of the renewables industry have attacked the findings, questioning the Edinburgh University research and describing them as “misleading”.

Scottish Renewables for one said that its oldest commercial windfarms in Scotland were around 16 years old and that none of them have been decommissioned or repowered.

Nonetheless, anti-windfarm campaigners believe that the evidence should be enough to halt the pace of development and force the Scottish Government to rethink its backing of the energy source.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said that parts of the USA, where the industry is further advanced, were already home to what amounted to windfarm graveyards.

And he said the difficulties associated with the decommissioning of such machinery could blight the Scottish landscape for years.

“We already know that the average wind turbine must be in operation for a minimum of two years to pay back the carbon cost of construction,” he said.

“If the average lifespan of a wind turbine is only 10 years then the Scottish Government must seriously question wind energy’s role in displacing carbon emissions.

“However, the rapid wear and tear of wind turbines comes as no surprise. We need only cast our eye across the Atlantic to see 12,000 turbines rotting in the Californian desert.

“I have particular concerns surrounding the environmental costs of decommissioning and exactly who bears these burdens.

“With question marks raised over intermittency, noise, cost, efficiency, placement and now lifespan, when will the Scottish Government see sense and pull at the reins of wind energy?”

The Renewable Energy Foundation is a registered charity promoting sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy. It claims to have “no political affiliation or corporate membership” and believes its findings have worrying implications for the investment being made in the UK in wind power.

The study also reports that the decline in the performance of Danish offshore windfarms had been greater than that of UK onshore windfarms.

Director Dr John Constable said: “This study confirms suspicions that decades of generous subsidies to the wind industry have failed to encourage the innovation needed to make the sector competitive.

“Put bluntly, wind turbines onshore and offshore still cost too much and wear out far too quickly to offer the developing world a realistic alternative to coal.”
The Courier

California has something like 14,000 giant fans that have been abandoned – erected in the late 1980s they lasted less than 20 years – most were clapped-out by 1998 – before the enormous cost of maintaining them saw them left to rust:


“Green” corpses left to rust at Tehachapi, California.


In Hawaii a stack went up at Kamaoa in 1985 – by 2004 they too were left to the elements:

Hawaii rusting turbines

They were just youngsters when the rot set in.


So, you’re thinking, only in America could wind power outfits get away with leaving thousands of giant fans to rust in the paddock. Well, think again.

The company that wind power outfits use to hold the land holder agreements with farmers is usually a $2 company with no real assets and, therefore, the “promise” contained in those agreements to decommission turbines isn’t worth the paper it’s written on: the parent company will simply let the company with the land holder agreement be wound up in insolvency; and host farmers were too gullible to obtain decommissioning bonds to ensure the clean-up costs are covered. And planning authorities were just as stupid – they could have easily forced developers to provide decommissioning bonds as a condition of granting planning consent, but generally failed to do so.

So, once these things are past their economic use by dates, their owners will cut and run in a heartbeat. Expect to see fleets of dilapidated fans rusting on Australian ridge-lines in the not too distant future.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Let this mess with all of its horrific facets be the legacy of all politicians who ushered in industrial scale wind turbines! Name names and keep a running list of everyone who was in on this.
    In Ontario, being decimated in the election and losing party status has left an indelible impression. Those who clean this mess up will be true leaders.

  2. I think the dead winds farms actually look really cool. Like the head statues at easter island.

    • Radical Rodent says:

      They are only “cool” in their rarity; when they are everywhere you look, I suspect that they will lose their “cool” appeal…

  3. Not so very long ago, California established that the ransom level value of dispatchable AC power was high enough to bankrupt power distribution companies, and the idiot citizenry fired their governor as a scapegoat. Then they elected Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    Nevertheless, they have utterly failed to realise that solar and wind, being utterly un-dispatchable, are worthless.

  4. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:

    If Greens love nature, why aren’t they more concerned about carpeting unspoilt, pristine landscapes with industrial wind turbines?

    Industrial turbines that only last ten years and that are predominately made in China using Australian coal!

    Talk about shifting ’emissions’. See no evil, hear no evil.

  5. Reblogged this on How Green Is This.

  6. The ownership structures of Victoria’s two most glaring examples of non-compliant industrial wind farms, Waubra and Macarthur………?

    Pyrenees Wind Energy Developments Pty. Ltd.???… (Waubra Wind Farm – Acciona)

    Macarthur Wind Farm Pty Ltd, ABN 19 106 134 507 (MWF), Meridian Wind Macarthur Pty Limited, ABN 60 124 383 688 (MWM), and AGL Hydro Partnership, ABN 86 076 691 481 (AGL Hydro) are building a wind farm near Macarthur in the south west region of Victoria (Macarthur Wind Farm).
    The Macarthur Wind Farm will be jointly owned by MWF and MWM, which are
    respectively wholly owned subsidiaries of AGL Energy Limited, ABN 74 115 061 375 (AGL) and Meridian Energy Limited, New Zealand Company Number 938552 ARBN 151 800 396 (Meridian).
    MWF and MWM have appointed AGL Hydro as the operator of the Macarthur Wind Farm.
    MWF, MWM and AGL Hydro are jointly applying for the issue of a Generation Licence for the Macarthur Wind Farm in the name of the three parties (the Applicant).
    The Applicant (or proposed ‘licensee’) for the Generation Licence for the Macarthur Wind Farm provides the following application details in accordance with the ‘Guidance Note for Application for Electricity Licences’ issued by the Essential Services Commission of Victoria in 2006. etc, etc, etc.

    Good luck in untangling this mess when it comes to the bill for decommission these bird and bat chomping eco crucifixes when the time comes, sooner rather than later?

  7. windbrick says:

    Especially if the Ceres flop goes ahead, here on the Yorke Peninsula, where the wind mainly comes off the ocean, the salt air should kill them in no time (if the non-hosts don’t get them first).

  8. Neville Wright says:

    I am surprised the wind industry did not hound this investigation into nonexistence such that the report disappeared into the bowels of the earth never to see the light of day. I already knew the 25 years was a bunch of crap, but without the RECs to sustain them, the maintenance will not be done and they will indeed rust in the paddock in no time. Serves the hosts right.


  1. […] It’s that simple fact of engineering and mechanical life that led Hughes to conclude that the average (economic) life span for modern (onshore) wind turbines is about 12 years (see our post here). […]

  2. […] be mature? When the wind starts blowing 24 x 7? When turbines have an economic lifespan of 50 years instead of 10? […]

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