It seems logical that, like buying in bulk at Costco, the more turbines in a wind farm, the lower the cost per turbine and the lower the cost of electricity for that project, but the U.S. Department of Energy found that when it comes to wind farms, smaller is actually cheaper.
A new report on the wind technology market from the DOE finds that the cost per kW of electricity for a wind farm is actually at its lowest in the 5 to 20 MW range, not the biggest 200 MW and above wind farms, like one would think. The probable reasons for this come down to added costs associated with the biggest of wind farms that don't apply to smaller ones.
- Wind farms above 20 MW have to go through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which can cost extra time and money for developers.
- Large wind farms need special financing which can only be handled by a select few large firms that likely charge a premium for their services.
- The biggest reason could be that the largest of projects require the addition of new transmission lines, which can be extremely expensive.
This finding may encourage smaller, more affordable projects on a local level, much like how distributed solar projects have really taken off compared to larger solar farms. Communities could own their own wind farm and reap the cost and environmental benefits. Small projects may even want to take advantage of vertical axis turbines that have been found to produce more electricity in less space than horizontal axis ones.
Image via Energy Self-Reliant States
written by san francisco metal recycling, October 24, 2011
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