Wind power: operating costs?

Wind power operating costs. A breakdown of wind turbine opex is build up in this data-file, using granular data from technical papers, and our other models.

We think a typical wind turbine costs $40/kw per year to run and maintain, equivalent to 1-2c/kWh of opex, depending on the load factor.

The data-file shows how costs can vary, as a function of inputs. A sensible range is $25-75/kW-year. And the single largest way to lower costs is through up-scaling, spreading relatively fixed costs across larger turbines and larger overall assets. Our recent note on up-scaling wind turbines is linked here.

Wind turbine maintenance market? We estimate that around $25/kW of our cost build-up can be described as ‘maintenance’. Hence across 825GW of global wind capacity (at the end of 2021), the wind turbine maintenance market would be worth >$20bn per year.

This maintenance ‘after-market’ is typically controlled by wind turbine manufacturers. Larger operators can lower costs by self-managing, albeit this comes at the risk of lower uptime.

The data-file includes a build-up of maintenance costs across 19 different categories — drives, generators, hydraulic systems, blades, hubs electricals (chart below)– multiplying their annual failure rates by the sum of their replacement costs (i.e., parts) and the time spent by technicians.

Wind power operating costs

Another surprisingly large cost component is lubricants, around $1-2/kW-year.

Full details on wind power operating costs are split out across 6 tabs, including our highlights from the best technical papers that crossed our screen in the ‘notes’ tab. We have also drawn on other data-files assessing wind turbine capex costs, typical plant sizes, land use, and land costs.

Key conclusions on the opex of a wind power project were also highlighted in a research article sent out in August-2022 to our distribution list.

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