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Are Wind Turbines Worth The Money?

by Stanford Magnets

Total costs for installing a commercial-scale wind turbine will vary considerably subject to the number of turbines ordered, cost of financing, when the turbine purchase agreement was executed, construction contracts, the location of the project, and other factors. Cost components for wind projects include things other than the turbines, such as wind resource assessment and site analysis expenses; construction expenses; permitting and interconnection studies; utility system upgrades, transformers, protection and metering equipment; insurance; operations, warranty, maintenance, and repair; legal and consultation fees. Other factors that will impact your project economics include taxes and incentives.

Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3-$4 million to be installed. Smaller farm or residential scale turbines cost less overall, but are more expensive per kilowatt of energy producing capacity. Wind turbines under 100 kilowatts cost roughly $3,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt of capacity. A 10 kilowatt machine (the size needed to power a large home) might have an installed cost of $50,000-$80,000 (or more) depending on the tower type, height, and the cost of installation. Often there are tax and other incentives that can dramatically reduce the cost of a wind project.

As all these factors can vary considerably, as does the length of time over which payback revenue will be spread, it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to pay back the initial cost of installing a turbine. A large wind generator in the right site can pay for itself in 6-10 years. And a small turbine can usually take 12 to18 years to pay back. However with the incentives available today, the payback time can be as short as 4 years. Wind turbines can usually last for 25 to 30 years if they are adequately maintained. Therefore if you take the initial years off where you will be paying back the investment costs, you can still get a good 20 years of free electricity. Saving money and reducing the carbon foot print. Over the long term, a wind turbine is a good investment because a well-sited wind system increases property value, similar to any other home improvement.

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