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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Even when they break they cost the taxpayer


In a previous post about Bird Mincers wind turbines, I was exploring the load factors of these abominations wonderful creations.

Further reading of the same document on the DECC website and I came upon the estimated failure rate of offshore turbines. (It’s page 31 if you’re interested).

Table 3 estimates that, on average, an offshore wind farm could incur a failure rate of approximately 17% per year. The associated cost of repair has been estimated to be equal to £43/kW, based on total equipment cost of £520/KW, installation cost of £286/KW and cost of the single components provided by the industry within the Contact Programme.


A 17% failure rate to me is astounding. So not only have we a low load factor over the year, we also have a high failure rate. In all my years working with machinery I’ve never experienced such a high failure rate.

And it gets worse.

Over the lifetime of the plant, the rate of technical failure is expected to have a ‘bath-tub’ profile (Figure 7). It is expected to be highest in the initial stages of operation, when it has been assumed that a technology provider warranty is in place (usually for the first 5 years),
such that the developer would not incur any repair costs for this period. A 17% failure rate then holds for the first years of an onshore project’s lifetime, after which time it rises linearly to 23%
(My embolden) by Year 20. This latter rise coincides with financial risk as the ROC period
ends and uncertainty about green power prices increases.


23% is huge. I’d already in a previous post investigated that the life of a turbine gearbox replacement can be anywhere up to 500,000 Euros, which are on average are barely lasting half the projected life of the turbines. It’s interesting to note that that they quote £43/kW for repair. As you can see from above, the true estimated cost looks to be ten times the cost. Worryingly, the warranty as you can see from the graph above runs out after 6 years. They are already failing after seven years. Who pays then? Most probably the taxpayer. Although further on in the DECC article they are trying to imply that binding agreements with wind turbine operators are being sought.

If you look at table 3 above you’ll also see that the failure rate for the tower is 0.4%. This differs with information I have posted before.

Roughly 600 of Europe’s installed 948 offshore turbines have been prone to grout connection failure, causing turbines to tilt within their monopile foundations. But according to some, the problem lies less with the grout itself, than with a design that relies on grout to hold the foundation and transition piece together.

The more I read the whole paper the more I see is that the authors are only writing a puff piece to assure our Grimy Politicians Lords and Masters, that it is the “Right thing to do”. (I wonder who loves uttering that phrase?).

I hope that when the lights start to go out in 2015,  I can start using the piano wire and lamposts I’ve been hoarding in my garage. (I have surplus that you can obtain free of charge to use on your MP of choice. PS the Huhnatic is mine, all mine.) *cue maniacal laughter*


  1. "PS the Huhnatic is mine, all mine."

    That's what Mrs Huhne thought.

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  3. I conclude that these monsters are designed to fail. No sane designer would put all the heavy gear at the top, for maintenance & complexity reasons alone. There could have been a simple hydraulic pump at the top, with all the control gear & generation at the base, probably saving millions in tower structural stiffness alone. I suspect there are huge embedded maintenance contracts written-in - giving a "nice little earner" for many years.

  4. "I suspect there are huge embedded maintenance contracts written-in - giving a "ni"

    Of course there are, these things are meant to create 'green jobs' - the more the better. Huhne et al don't give a damn whether they are effective or efficient, more breakdowns = more jobs, and us suckers who need power will pay for it.

  5. There is no Table 3 on page 32 in the file you link to. That file has pages from 17 to 26. There's a Table 3, but not the one you reproduced.

  6. CJ Nerd. Thanks for that. Link amended.

  7. Wonder if Mr Huhne will have to sell any of his houses :). ...

  8. Whenever I drive past a working wind farm I have trying to estimate the number of broken machines. It is always 1 or 2 in a large group and I estimate about 5% are broken on average. I wonder how they estimate the availability of power from these wind farms. When they say 18% of rated power, is that of all of the machines, or is it of the working machines only? If they do not count the broken ones you can subtract off another 1% off of that 18%.


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