Wind farms are likely to run out of the ability to generate energy after little more than a decade of use – about half of the previously thought lifespan for the turbines.
An Edinburgh University study found that onshore wind farms, instead of lasting for 25 years without a drop in input into the grid, are more likely to reach the end of their lifespan in 10 or 12 years.
The report, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation, which is against wind farm expansion, raised fears of massive hidden costs within Scotland’s renewables industry.
The report by Professor Gordon Hughes could have serious consequences for the Scottish Government’s plans to make Scotland 100% dependent on renewable energy by 2020.
The results show the average load factor of wind farms declines substantially as they get older, probably due to wear and tear. By 10 years of age the contribution of an average wind farm to meeting electricity demand has declined by one-third.
Mr Hughes said: “Meeting the UK Government’s targets for wind generation will require a much higher level of wind capacity and capital investment than current projections imply.”
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “This study confirms suspicions that generous subsidies have failed to encourage the innovation needed to make the sector competitive.”
But Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, said: “Our oldest commercial wind farms in Scotland are around 16 years old and none of them have been decommissioned or repowered.
“Let’s also remember that Gordon Hughes’s previous research on wind energy has been described by the UK Energy Research Council’s Dr Robert Gross and others at Imperial College, London, as ‘economically irrational, a nonsense scenario’ and ‘economically absurd, spurious and misleading’.”