RenewableUK slams shorter wind turbine lifespan claims

A report claiming that the economic life of onshore wind turbines is significantly lower than previously estimated has been labelled "absurd" by RenewableUK.

The recent report published by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a registered charity which “aims to promote sustainable development for the benefit of the public”, also claims that it is rarely economic to operate windfarms for more than 12 to 15 years and that subsidies for wind projects should be cut. 

Responding to the report conducted by energy and environmental economist Professor Gordon Hughes of the University of Edinburgh, RenewableUK’s director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said onshore wind farms have been generating increasing amounts of clean electricity for British homes for more than twenty years and cited Delabole wind farm in Cornwall, which opened in 1991, as an example.

Edge said it was “absurd to focus purely on the past as this report does” and that wind power had become even more efficient over the last two decades.

In reply, REF director John Constable said: “It’s a very very sad story all of this, it’s getting to the point of being tragic.”

“We are not on track to get the ‘renewables of tomorrow’ at the moment because what we are doing is subsidising the [wind] industry for deploying the existing renewables technologies which are clearly sub-optimal”.

However, Edge said: “We’re fully on course to generate 30% of our electricity from onshore and offshore wind by 2020 – a clean and secure supply which will keep people’s bills down by ending our dependence on expensive imports of dirty fossil fuels”.

The large amount of investment in wind power was proof of its success, claimed Edge.

“If what REF is claiming were true, then the industry simply wouldn’t be able to raise money – the fact that investors have remained confident in the wind energy sector demonstrates their confidence in the technology. Successful investors are no pushover- they always make sure they kick the tyres, take the test drive and do their homework before they commit their cash,” he said.

He also noted that because wind farm developers only earn money for the clean electricity they generate, it was in their interests to make sure that their turbines are maintained throughout the twenty-five year lifespan.

Edge said: “We need a serious debate in this country about how we keep the lights on. The twelve-thousand workers in the British wind industry know that REF’s claims don’t stand up. The seventy-six thousand who will find jobs in wind energy by the end of the decade will look back at reports like this in sheer disbelief”.

Speaking to edie, Constable claimed the organisation was “not anti-wind technology” and was generally positive towards renewables but insisted that subsidies to the wind industry were “counterproductive”.

“We are very critical of an industry who we think is being very greedy and indeed are asking for much more than they currently deserve. They are neglecting the fundamental need to improve the technologies to provide a compelling alternative to coal for the developing world.”

“The capital cost has got to come down and the technology has got to be robust,” he said.

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie