Energy

Busted Wind Turbine Cost New Jersey $498,000 [VIDEO]

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Repairs finished Friday on a busted New Jersey wind turbine cost taxpayers $498,000 since it broke last June.

The wind turbine was busted when a single bearing broke. Replacing the bearing cost $298,000 while the turbine’s lost output cost taxpayers $200,000. The bearing was supposed to last 20 years, but only lasted three.

The turbine’s operators shipped the broken bearing to Europe Wednesday to conduct “a forensic examination” of what caused it to break.

Repairs were originally scheduled to take place in November, but were delayed until early March. Local officials estimated that the 260-foot wind turbine cost taxpayers roughly $25,000 every month it went un-repaired. When it was functioning, the turbine produced a mere 3.3 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, enough to power 600 single-family homes for a year.

However, most of that electricity likely wasn’t used. Globally, less than 30 percent of total power wind capacity and 20 percent of solar capacity are actually utilized — the intermittent and irregular nature of green energy makes it hard to use.

Power demand is relatively predictable, but the output of a wind turbine is quite variable over time and generally doesn’t coincide with the times when power is most needed. Thus, wind power systems require conventional backups to provide power during outages. Since the output of wind turbines cannot be predicted with high accuracy by forecasts, grid operators need to keep excess conventional power systems running.

Solar and wind power accounted for only 0.4 and 4.4 percent of electricity generated in America in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration. The total amount of energy created by solar and wind is relatively small even though both systems are heavily subsidized.

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