In Wisconsin, a wind turbine farm is being decommissioned and disassembled after only 20 years of operation. It turns out that this is typical. My colleague Isaac Orr explains at Center of the American Experiment’s web site:
What’s really surprising about these wind turbines being decommissioned after 20 years is the fact that people were surprised by it. You’d be astonished at how many people I talk to have no idea that wind turbines only last for 20 years, maybe 25. In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the useful life of a wind turbine is only 20 years.
This is the point: the federal government produces figures on the “levelized cost of energy,” comparing coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar and so on. Most people naively assume that the government’s numbers are authoritative. In fact, as usual when it comes to energy, the government’s thumb is firmly on the scale in favor of crony energy that funds politicians:
The short usable lifespan of a wind turbine is one of the most important, but least-talked about subjects in energy policy.
In contrast to wind, coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants can run for a very long time. Coal and natural gas plants can easily run for 50 years, and nuclear plants can be updated and retrofitted to run for 60 years. This has profound implications for the cost of electricity on a per megawatt hour basis that seemingly no one is talking about.
When the federal government puts out their cost projections for energy, the numbers they produce are called the Levelized Cost of Energy, or LCOE. These numbers are supposed to act as a measuring stick that allows policymakers to determine which energy sources will best serve their needs, but these numbers are wrong because they assume all power plants, whether they are wind, coal, natural gas, or nuclear will have a 30-year payback period.
This does two things. It artificially reduces the cost of wind power by allowing them to spread their costs over 30 years, when 20 would be much more appropriate, and it artificially inflates the cost of coal, natural gas, and nuclear by not calculating the cost over the entirety of their reasonable lifetimes.
When it comes to energy, you cannot get reliable information from “mainstream” sources or from the government. “Green” energy investors like Tom Steyer have gamed the system, and whoever pays electric bills–i.e., everyone else–is the sucker in their game.
The best place I know for information on energy policy is AmericanExperiment.org.