Adding Up the Turbines
An article about a small-scale windfarm to be completed by spring 2012 offers some numbers and thereby invites readers to do the math:
Three, 360-foot tall turbines — the largest in the state — will be built at the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Fields Point Wastewater Treatment Facility. The team for the $12-million project includes Gilbane Building Co., Atlantic Design Engineers, Glynn Electric, Barnhart Crane & Rigging, Earth Systems Global Inc. and Terracon.
The commission estimates that at that height, the turbines will generate 1,500 kilowatts and supply 55 to 60 percent of the current power demand at its facility. The electricity is valued at more than $500,000 per year and will offset 3,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide that would have been released from fossil fuel.
So let’s assume that the project keeps to its budget and that the turbines generate the predicted amount of energy with the forecast value. Let’s also leave out all costs associated with operating and maintaining the mini-farm. It will take 24 years for these turbines to pay for themselves, which brings us right about the time that they’ll have to be
replaced refurbished, for additional years of service required to cover the cost. (Again, that’s the cost beyond operation and maintenance and with all of the friendly assumptions, as described above.)
Now, we can argue about the need to “go green,” and I’ll take the position that the environmental benefits of these programs are not worth the cost. But it remains disingenuous to speak of such projects as money-saving.