Repowering UK onshore wind farms as they reach the end of their scheduled operating lives would be a cost-effective way to increase generation of cheap, low-carbon electricity, says a report from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
The report suggests that this could increase the UK’s generating capacity by more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW) compared with the current scenario in which turbines are taken down at the end of their lives.
Around 60 wind farms with over 750 turbines will reach their 20th anniversary in the next 5 years, meaning many might be at risk of closure. Most of these were built when turbine technology was less developed and more expensive to run, and repowering them would involve an upgrade to newer and more efficient equipment.
This extra power could be enough to power 800,000 homes, according to the report.
Report author Dr Jonathan Marshall, ECIU energy analyst, said that with onshore wind the cheapest source of new electricity generation, repowering is a cost-effective way to secure new capacity:
‘Britain installed its first wind farms during the early 1990s when the technology was in its infancy, and the electricity generated was significantly more expensive than that from fossil fuels,’ he said.
‘The industry has developed rapidly, however, and modern turbines generate vastly more power than older ones at costs competitive with coal and gas-fired generation, especially when located onshore.
‘It makes sense to repower sites of the earliest wind farms, which tend to be in locations that have the best wind resource. Existing infrastructure including network connections can also be reused or upgraded at costs lower than for new sites.’
RenewableUK’s executive director, Emma Pinchbeck, responded to the report:
‘Repowering onshore wind projects with modern, ultra-efficient turbines provides benefits to consumers by delivering electricity cheaper than any other technology. If new and repowered onshore projects are allowed to compete for power contracts, they can generate low-cost, subsidy-free electricity,’ she said.
‘As this report shows, the onshore wind industry’s supply chain offers industrial benefits to sectors such as the UK’s steel industry producing high-quality material for turbine towers. But onshore wind still needs a route to market, so it’s encouraging to see ministers examining possible ways forward for this technology,m which has consistently enjoyed a high level of public support’.
Read the report here