News: USA - old turbines get a second wind through remanufacturing
Wind energy technology has advanced so much in recent decades that a handful of larger, more efficient turbines can now do the same job as hundreds of smaller turbines, allowing utilities to squeeze more electricity out of the same area of land.
Thursday, 29th January 2009
The New York Times online reports that this means many owners of wind farms built during the California wind rush of the 1980s are starting to upgrade their equipment - and in the process, they are expected to send thousands of worn-out, old machines to the scrap heap over the next five to 10 years. But a growing number of new companies are snapping up the old turbines on the cheap, overhauling the systems and reselling them to farmers or other community wind developers at bargain prices. Halus Power Systems in Hayward, Calif., Energy Maintenance Service in Howard, S.D., Aeronautica Windpower in Plymouth, Mass. and Nexion DG in Portland, Ore. all offer remanufactured wind turbines salvaged from wind farms in California. Many small-scale and community wind projects - which typically generate less than a megawatt of electricity and bring independent, renewable power sources to schools, small businesses and rural communities - have been hamstrung in recent years by the prohibitive cost of new equipment and an inability to compete with larger developers for a limited supply of turbines. A new turbine runs in the range of $1,400 to $1,600 per kilowatt of generating capacity, which translates to at least $1.4 million for a 1 megawatt turbine, said Mr. Stein. Nexion sells remanufactured 25-kilowatt to 500-kilowatt turbines for about $700 to $800 per kilowatt. Their customers also only wait about two months for a rebuilt machine, compared to the year-long - or more - waiting lists for new turbines. If a turbine is properly rebuilt, every part from the 80- to 100-foot tower to the blades can be restored to last another 20 years, said Mr. Stein. The gear box, a refrigerator-sized tangle of moving steel parts, is "the heart of the turbine" and the most critical piece to rebuild, he said, because of the amount of wear and tear it endures spinning 1,000 revolutions a minute for years on end.