An aging fleet of U.S. wind turbines will force owners and operators to begin grappling with the thorny dilemma of deciding to repower the machines or simply repair them.
According to Navigant Consulting, there are 6,696 wind turbines in the U.S. that have exceeded 20 years of operation – or about 12% of the domestic fleet. And right behind that legacy fleet are another 12,903 wind turbines (24%) that have been in operation between 10 and 20 years. Taken together, that’s a whopping 36% of the total U.S. installed base that falls into these categories.
Lately, some owners have even opted for a partial repowering of a turbine. Experts say that this option can be particularly beneficial for wind turbines that are nearing 10 years of operation. Therefore, with so many options available, how can owners and operators decide which strategy is best?
Each option has its strong points. Repowering means that owners can take advantage of taller hub heights and increased rotor diameters to ensure more energy output. Then again, new analytical techniques have enhanced the ability for owners and operators to identify optimized approaches to running older wind farms. Therefore, some owners and operators may choose to repair the wind turbines as needed.
Luckily, two feature articles in this month’s issue may help to dispel the myths and provide an operating path forward.
The first article, “Seven Considerations When Deciding To Repower (Or Repair),” written by AWS Truepower, provides a laundry list for readers to consider. For example, did you know that partially repowered projects may requalify for the production tax credit (PTC)? I didn’t. Or how about that repowering may impact your power purchase agreement? The article states, “Contracts may not have been structured to deal with repowering or may have ambiguities in the language that need clarification.”
The second article, “Is Repowering Worth It?” on page 18, is written by law firm Mayer Brown. The lawyers navigate the thorny issues surrounding the tax law and how repowering may impact PTC eligibility.
No matter which option is selected, you can be certain more owners and operators will be wrestling with this issue in the coming years.