The problem of giant turbines that threatens the future of wind energy

Wind turbines
The larger the turbine, the more efficient and easier it is to assemble. However, smaller turbines are less expensive to dismantle.
Joanna Campos Joanna Campos Portugal meteorite 6 minutes

There is a widespread saying in the field of wind energy: The larger the wind turbine, the better and cheaper it works For installation and production of electricity.

For this reason, promoters of this energy source prefer to install them off the coast, where they can take advantage of their enormous size (some are as tall as skyscrapers). Strong winds blow from the ocean without disturbing the environment much.

However, a recent report in Harvard Business Review He refutes this statement and warns against it Maintenance and uninstallation costs are higher than previously thought and may make its use unfeasible in the near future..

It has been said for years that the future of wind energy lies at sea. Companies and countries are investing millions in enhancing the energy source that is spreading throughout the world and which, little by little, It can make us forget the time when consuming electricity was synonymous with releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The size of turbines and why they are so big

These giant structures (wind turbines) can reach the height of the Eiffel Tower Its blades can reach a diameter of more than 250 metres, allowing it to sweep areas of more than 50,000 square metres.

(…) The larger the turbine, the more power it produces and the less expenditure on installation and maintenance. (…)

Its enormous size is not a whim. The industry claims that the high cost of these facilities Navy It is work necessary to build them, so The larger the turbine, the more power it produces and the less you spend on installation and maintenance.. But the increase in size, which makes wind turbines more efficient, could also be a serious problem, according to a team of academics.

Hidden costs

In this report, environmental sustainability experts Sam Aflacki of HEC Paris, Atalay Atasso and Luc En. Van Wassenhove of INSEAD Business School The costs involved in installing a wind turbine are not limited to the cost of the turbines.

It also includes Costs associated with installing platforms Navy Robust and robust marine logistics and extensive submarine cables To connect these turbines to the ground network several kilometers away.

The authors say these tasks become more difficult and expensive as distance from shore increases, often requiring specialized vessels and equipment, not to mention increasing the risks to workers.

But according to his analysis. Most expenses occur when turbines become old. Decommissioning is a complex and expensive process that involves dismantling turbines, removing foundations and cables, the reverse logistics of moving the blades and towers to the ground and responsible waste management.

There is a need for small wind turbines

The researchers used publicly available data to model the lifespan of wind turbines Navy. Calculations show a relationship between the size of the blades, the distance from the coast and the useful life value of the turbineThis is what the team calls “the total revenue generated by the electricity produced by the turbines minus the total life cycle cost.”

YouTube video ID=qSWm_nprfqE

The conclusions of the analysis conducted by the researchers are clear. Although larger turbines are generally more efficient, this efficiency varies depending on the distance from the coast and the ideal size of the blades, which is obviously affected by the level of maintenance and end-of-life costs. So, Smaller blades may be better suited for marine projectsAs they claim.

News reference:
Aflaki S., Atasu A., Wassenhove L. Long-run costs of wind turbines. Harvard Business Review Home (2024).

(Tags for translation) wind energy

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