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Why are wind turbines so ridiculously expensive?

Posted by David Hunt on 18 December 2012 at 3:22 pm

Q: For £5,995+VAT (advert NFU Farmer & Grower page 69 July 2012) I can buy a 34kW diesel generator (four cylinder Cummins diesel engine, Stamford alternator, diesel tank, radiator, frame, controls etc) whereas a 6kW wind turbine costs >£20k. Why are wind turbines so expensive - the mast? - the blades? Surely a 6kW alternator is cheaper than a 34kW alternator? I await your advice with interest. Thank you. 

A: You won't get a 6kw Turbine installed for £20k, it will be closer to £30k!

This is a question to throw at a manufacturer really. The £20k or more of the installation is material cost, (plus another chunk for groundworks/civils). 

Diesel turbines are an established and high volume piece of kit. Wind turbines are a newer technology with lower volumes built and much R&D cost. But I agree the material costs are high!!

Having said that a Cummins Diesel generator won't pay you feed-in tariffs for 20 years.

Photo: Ampair

About the author: David Hunt was Head of Commercial for Renewable Solutions UK Ltd. He no longer works in the renewable energy sector.

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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 18 December 2012 at 3:40 pm

To reiterate, there are substantial material costs to a wind turbine over a diesel engine, not least the tower and foundations, both of which are substantial in size and material cost. The mechanics and electrical installations are also subject to variable and large forces caused by the intermitancy of wind so need ot be robust and able to cope for 20 years or more. I would say though that a turbine whilst more expensive would give far greater value, particularly for farms with a good wind speed. Feed in Tariffs for wind provide substantial double digit return on investment.

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