Are wind turbines cost-effective? You may have heard people talking highly about the impressive wind energy. And you might be thinking of making a move.
But, before you take that step and learn about whether you can opt for a smaller wind turbine in your yard, you must know what it will cost.
So, are small wind turbines cost effective?
And does it make sense to harness the power of the wind to generate electricity?
Wind energy is the greener option available today, and compared to other forms of energy, wind turbines are definitely a cost-effective solution.
The Wonderful Working Mechanism of Wind Turbines
To decide how cost-effective wind turbines are, you need to get a better idea of their working mechanism.
The wind turbine is an ancient technology, thousands of years old.
But in more recent times, we have made huge advances in our understanding of how best to harness the wind and convert its energy.
Until recently, how turbines worked had not changed in centuries.
Fact: Larger wind turbines may not be super cost-effective to run since they have over 8,000 parts and require lubrication oils.
How Does It All Work?
Wind power technology is about capturing and converting kinetic energy, the energy an object has because of its motion, into electricity we can use.
On a turbine, kinetic energy is created by the blade as it moves through the air.
When installed correctly even the slightest breeze can cause the finely balanced blades to rotate producing energy.
There is a drive shaft inside the nacelle, the body of the turbine, that is attached to the blades at one end and to a system of gears at the other.
A generator is attached to the gears.
As the blades spin, the shaft rotates and the energy is transferred through the gears where the kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy via the generator.
This direct current is passed to a ground-level transformer where it is converted into a more manageable alternating current.
This has to be done before it passes on as electricity into a grid for distribution.
Why are Wind Turbines Cost-Effective?
Everyone today talks about wind energy and its so many advantages.
And that is when many people wonder, “how cost-effective is wind energy?”
There are many ways in which wind turbines are proving cost-effective both in the face of raising fossil fuels costs and damage to the environment.
In the US in 2021 alone, the economy benefited from investment in wind power to the tune of $20m plus.
In fact, wind turbines generated more than 9% of the country’s total energy.
Much-needed jobs were created as more turbines were installed and needed crews to maintain them.
And all these factors in to make wind turbines a lot more cost-effective at every scale.
Fact: It is believed that modern wind turbines have cut the cost of producing wind power by 90% since the 1980s.
The Cost of Building Wind Turbines
While a smaller turbine is quite like to be cost-effective, it cannot always be said about large turbines. And that is mainly because of what they are made of.
The main materials in wind turbines are:
- Steel, 66-79% of the total weight
- Fibreglass, with resin or plastic (11-16%)
- There is also aluminum, cast iron and copper in smaller proportions.
Most of the turbines in service at the moment are older models.
They are heavy, expensive and time-consuming to maintain.
Some components such as the blades are almost impossible to recycle, which is a huge problem for the industry worldwide.
The Cost-Effectiveness of Modern Turbines
Modern turbine design seeks to address these issues and by doing so, become much more cost-effective.
They are designed with longer blades that generate a greater yield.
Moreover, these blades are:
- Comparatively lightweight
- Easier to construct
- Simple to transport
- Easy to maneuver into place
They are made from a tough long-lasting polyurethane resin and a glass fiber fabric that does not corrode and is recyclable.
These new turbines have far fewer moving parts and there are fewer repairs.
The moving parts they do have are made from highly durable plastics that have been developed to withstand the tremendous forces involved.
Fact: Electricity is being produced by wind turbines located offshore all over the world, but especially in northern Europe, with the number of offshore wind farms going up.
Understanding Why Wind Turbines Becoming Cost Effective
All over the world, generating energy from the wind on a mass scale is proving viable as affordable energy.
But as yet, wind power’s contribution to the global energy supply has been less than 6.7%. Still, some countries are focusing more on it and leading the way.
Some of them are:
- The United States
Wind turbines look set to stay. Even the older models generate electricity at a fraction of the cost of other energy sources.
And unlike oil or gas, wind power is sustainable, it is not going to run out.
Constantly Improving Turbines to Lower Cost
With continuous research and development across all sectors of the industry, each generation of a turbine is an improvement on the last.
They became more cost-effective and attracted more investment as they grew in efficiency and size.
In fact, decommissioned units are expected to be replaced with bigger super-efficient turbines that are:
- Lighter, so easier and cheaper to build, transport and install.
- Equipped with money-saving longer service life, up to 35 years.
- Easier to maintain with no gear system and fewer moving parts
- Simple to run, saving on replacement components and lubrication costs.
- Less offline for scheduled maintenance on a gear system
- Less likely to suffer from pitting, corrosion and wear and tear.
- More eco-friendly with better use of recycled and recyclable materials
- Capable of generating and contributing to the grid at least 25% more energy per annum per unit.
Government’s Efforts to Make Turbines Cost-Effective
As low as wind power’s global energy share is at present, its potential for growth is well recognized.
With a deepening energy crisis unfolding, many governments are offering investment incentives.
- Loans for the installation of turbines
- Tax credits for the use of greener energy
These incentives make turbines cost-effective and inspire people to install more wind turbines.
Better Efficiency Translating into Cost-Effectiveness
There is also a much broader demand. A modern turbine can work just as effectively and for just as long in locations that were deemed unsuitable just a few years ago.
That was the case even if the wind, temperatures and air pressure were ideal, such as in:
- The high winds in offshore deep waters
- The arid gritty deserts
The Future of Wind Turbines and Wind Power
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that the wind power industry is gearing up for massive expansion.
In fact, a10-fold increase in the number of wind farms is predicted by 2030.
Similarly, annual energy production is predicted to increase just as dramatically, from 34 GW in 2020 to 330 GW in 2030.
In the US, 120,000 people now work in the wind power industry.
With an active drive on recruitment since 2014 there has been an explosion of jobs to the benefit local and national economies.
A global skills shortage is leaving many positions as yet unfilled.
But, the numbers employed directly in the wind power industry is expected to increase exponentially due to:
- Continued recruitment
- Access to training
- Good pay
- Suitable working conditions
Wind power is already cheap and getting cheaper although to be a major player against competition like solar energy, each kilowatt produced needs to cost less than 2 cents.
There has already been a 72% reduction in costs since 2009, when the last generation of turbines began service.
And, in the future, costs are expected to fall even further as energy production increases as older turbines are decommissioned.
Fact: Considering the cost-effectiveness, many ranchers, homeowners, and small businesses in the US have already started harnessing wind power.
Are wind turbines cost-effective? If you are currently thinking about an alternative energy source to power up your home, wind turbines may have already crossed your mind.
And the good thing is that smaller turbines are definitely cost-effective.
Larger ones have their expenses, but the energy they produce is still cleaner and much more cost-effective compared to fossil fuels.