After just 13 years in operation, Willmar wind turbines reaching the end of their useful life

After just 13 years in operation, the wind turbines operated by the Willmar Municipal Utilities (WMU) may be reaching the end of their useful life, according to a recent article in AgWeek.

The turbines were supposed to last for 20 years, but WMU has had difficulty finding replacement parts because the company that built them, DeWind, has since gone out of business.

The parts in question are the breakers, tripped every time the turbine starts or stops. Kevin Marti, the supervisor of WMU, explained. Each breaker is rated for about 8,000 to 9,000 trips in its lifespan, the current breakers have more than 10,000 trips on them.

It appears WMU will be able to source new breakers for the turbines, but Marti warned that “at some point, we’re going to run into some widget or something that takes these things out.”

Willmar’s situation for replacement parts is unique because there is only one other turbine facility of this type operating in the United States, but the short, 20-year useful lifespan of wind turbines means that many of the facilities built to meet the Next Generation Energy Act, passed in 2007, will soon be reaching the end of their useful lives, too.

The short useful lifetimes of these facilities are a major reason why proposals to power our entire state using 100 percent carbon-free power by 2040 without allowing for new nuclear power plants don’t make sense. Any wind turbine built today would be scrap metal by 2042, if not earlier, requiring these turbines to be rebuilt or “repowered.” just to maintain our current levels of wind electricity production.

Nuclear power plants, on the other hand, can last for up to 80 years, given that they are properly maintained. The long lifespan and high productivity of nuclear plants make them a much better bet for replacing existing coal plants. We shall see if sanity prevails.