This article was first published by New Energy Update and is being published in association with the 10th Annual Wind O&M Europe 2018 Conference
As a growing volume of wind capacity reaches the end of its nominal service life, owners, operators and service providers are looking at ways to assess the residual useful life of wind farm assets and methods to extract the maximum value from an ageing fleet.
Lifetime Extension – An Overview As a modern and relatively new industry it seems perhaps incongruous that a major chunk of the world’s installed wind power capacity is due to reach its retirement age in the coming decade. According to GWEC figures, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed 20 years ago in 1997 less than 7,500 MW of wind capacity had been installed worldwide. Ten years later, that figure was north of 93,000 MW and some 20 GW of onshore wind was installed that year alone.
But, with a typical specified design life of 20 years, FTI Consulting believes that more than 86 GW of wind capacity is expected to be decommissioned across Europe alone by 2030. More than three-quarters of this capacity is located in just five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Asset managers and owner-operators facing the encroaching end-of-life scenario are primarily faced with three choices: decommission and return the site to previous use, repower the site with modern turbines; or extend the life of the existing installed asset.
There are several immediate and obvious benefits in selecting life extension. For example, extending the lifespan of a machine typically reduces its lifetime levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) and increases project revenue. Planning and regulatory approvals are also less challenging than repowering options, which in many markets involves reapplying for a permit to operate and may not even be possible in some jurisdictions. In addition, where incentives for wind power have fallen – such as in Europe – repowering has become less attractive, prompting a wave of interest in life extension.
There are also clear gains in terms of required capital investment too. According to Rubén Ruiz de Gordejuela, Chief Technology Officer at Spanish life extension service provider Nabla Wind Power, the average cost of extending the life of an operational wind turbine is around 100,000 euros per MW, though this figure is widely variable. This compares with around 1 million euros/MW for repowering. Given that perhaps an additional decade of operational life and associated revenue is potentially available, life extension offers an increasingly attractive alternative to repowering.
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Filed Under: O&M, Projects