Maintenance and operational costs: a note of caution

Wind turbines need maintenance, just like any mechanical device.

Wind turbines need maintenance, just like any mechanical device, and maintenance costs money. Commercial wind farms have a financial incentive to keep the turbines turning: the income from electricity sales covers the cost of maintenance. In contrast, where a small turbine is set up in low winds, there is a danger that lack of funding may lead to inadequate or non-existent maintenance. This can happen when the value of the energy generated by the turbine is less than the costs of servicing and repair. If the turbine is unable to finance its own maintenance programme, then other sources of money need to be found.

Another problem may be a lack of local expertise. Who is going to maintain the equipment, and when will they be free to do it? The time to research the maintenance of a turbine project is before the turbine is bought, not afterwards.

There have been examples of so-called ‘demonstration’ wind energy projects where the turbines have stopped turning because of the cost of maintenance, seriously undermining the educational value of the ‘demonstration’. It is crucial to the long-term success of such schemes that maintenance and operational costs are not forgotten in the excitement of getting a new turbine set up.