A press release by Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft reports how offshore North and Baltic Sea wind turbines need to be in operation for 25 years before they become profitable, but that they are prone to shortened lifespans due to rust from the harsh sea environment.
As a result the wind turbine installations need extra and very costly maintenance to ensure that they survive long enough. It’s turning out to be an insurmountable challenge.
Maintenance to turbines cannot be done at a dry dock, rather, because they are permanently fixed out to sea, repair work and maintenance have to be done offshore in raw and windy conditions. Not only is this expensive, but it also puts the lives and limbs of repair personnel at risk.
This is the reason engineers and researchers are trying to find ways to better protect offshore wind power systems from the brutal elements. Protection of vulnerable metal surfaces is planned to be achieved by developing and applying new surface films, but this is still very much in development.
100 times the cost of a new turbine
The figure that is especially astonishing about offshore wind power turbines is that the “maintenance and repair costs of offshore wind turbines over the years add up to be a hundred times the cost of the new turbine itself,” says Peter Plagemann of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Applied Material Science (IFAM) in Bremen.
Plagemann adds (my emphasis):
While a metal coating during the construction of a turbine on land can cost up to 20 to 30 euros per square meter, it can be several thousand euros for offshore turbines.”
This is yet just another huge and costly technical obstacle faced by offshore windparks. It’s going to be an expensive mess come clean-up time.