What is required for a wind project to be successful?

In general, a "successful" wind project is one that makes financial sense.

Five things are needed if your wind project is going to be successful; they can be remembered with the acronym CEWPI (pronounced QP):

  • C for Community support, or at least not Community resistence,
  • E for minimal Environmental impact, meaning that the project isn't located in a wetland, or close to an airport landing path, or close to a cell tower, or residential buildings, or in an endangered species habitat, etc.,
  • W for a good Wind resource,
  • P for a Purchaser of the electricity at a good rate. (If you will be using the electricity yourself, then you are the purchaser.)
  • I for an economical ability to Interconnect the project to the purchaser.

Is wind energy expensive?

Wind energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation available today. Wind power is more expensive than power from old, established power plants, but is cost competitive with any new power plant.

Technology innovations and market building incentives have helped to dramatically lower costs over the last 20 years. When the first commercial-scale wind turbines were installed in the 1980s, wind generated electricity cost up to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Today, wind power plants can generate electricity for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, a price that is competitive with new coal- or gas-fired power plants.

How much do wind turbines cost?

Wind turbines come in many shapes and sizes, but here is a general guideline on how much they cost:

Total costs for installing a commercial-scale wind turbine will vary significantly depending on 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.

The costs for a utility scale wind turbine in 2012 range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million per MW of nameplate capacity installed. This cost has come down dramatically from what it was just a few years ago.

Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3-$4 million installed. Wind turbines have significant economies of scale. 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. Oftentimes there are tax and other incentives that can dramatically reduce the cost of a wind project.

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