ORIGINAL REPORTING: Building New Life Into Old Wind
Zombie wind and solar? How repowering old facilities helps renewables keep cutting costs; Old facilities are beginning to be replaced with newer, more efficient technologies, cutting costs and delivering more power
Herman K. Trabish, Oct. 26, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: For the reasons reported here, the momentum behind repowering has grown since this story ran.
Renewable energy is a growth industry, so most media attention goes to installment numbers, expansion rates, and cost declines. Less is paid to the other side of the equation — what happens to facilities when they reach the end of their productive lives. For most fossil facilities, reaching a retirement age means being decommissioned and demolished, if not retrofitted with a new turbine and cleaner fuel. But despite some persistent media rumors of “abandoned” wind turbines, the end of one renewable energy facility’s life most often marks the beginning of another. Most solar farms are too new to be retired yet, but the first U.S. wind projects, built in the 1980s and 1990s, are reaching the end of their productive lives. Output is dwindling, maintenance costs are climbing, and new technologies make the turbines obsolete. But the existing sites, with ready transmission connections and high wind potential, make them ideal candidates for what the industry calls “repowering.”
Wind developers and industry experts say projects repowered with new technologies will qualify for another ten-year round of the $0.023/kWh federal production tax credit (PTC), extended at the end of last year. That would allow them to win new, low-priced power purchase agreements (PPAs) with utilities or meet the low prices in today’s wholesale electricity markets. New wind turbines’ taller towers increase wind capture by 44% and their longer blades increase wind capture another 57%, according to American Wind Energy Industries (AWEA) Research Director Michael Goggin. Advanced generator, gearbox, and component technologies also lower turbines’ cost per MW. The resulting lower cost per MW and higher MWh generated both drive the levelized cost of energy down… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS