Repowering UK onshore wind farms as they reach the end of their operating lives would be a highly cost-effective way to increase generation of cheap, low-carbon electricity, a report has argued.

Upgrading wind farms that will reach the end of scheduled operation in the next five years with the latest and most efficient turbines would increase the UK’s generating capacity by more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW) compared with a scenario in which turbines are taken down at the end of their lives, according to the study by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The report said this would yield more than 3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year, enough to power nearly 800,000 homes. It would save consumers more than £77 million per year on energy bills, compared to generating the same amount of electricity from gas-fired power stations, and help put the country back on track to meeting climate change targets.

The electricity would also be significantly cheaper than that from current onshore wind farms, which received more generous support at a time when less-developed technology needed higher subsidies.

Turbines more efficient

Report author Dr Jonathan Marshall said that with onshore wind the cheapest source of new electricity generation, repowering is a cost-effective way to secure new capacity:

“Britain installed its first wind farms during the early 1990s when the technology was in its infancy, and the electricity generated was significantly more expensive than that from fossil fuels,” he said.

“The industry has developed rapidly, however, and modern turbines generate vastly more power than older ones at costs competitive with coal and gas fired generation, especially when located onshore.

“It makes sense to repower sites of the earliest wind farms, which tend to be in locations that have the best wind resource. Existing infrastructure including network connections can also be reused or upgraded at costs lower than for new sites.”

> Read the report here