How long does it take for a wind turbine to pay for itself? I was driving through south Texas and they seem to be sprouting up like trees. My friend and I guessed that they would pay for themselves in 5-10 years. How close are we to being correct?
The true answer is clouded by several factors. Federal and local tax incentive subsidies obscure the real cost. Maintenance is an expensive consideration that often is not considered in operating expenses. Interest paid on financing projects must also be included. Wind turbines, especially large units, are complex structures that require significant investment to build and operate. They are prone to failures and costly to repair. Downtime for routine servicing and inspections produces no electricity and winds are not always reliable consistent.
Turbine assemblies have a useful lifespan of about twenty years as mechanical and electrical components wear out over time and ordinary use, even under the best operating conditions.
The “carbon footprint” of wind turbines, figuring the manufacturing process and all the materials and manpower, transportation, other infrastructure, such as transmission wiring from remote locations, and site preparations involved in erecting and commissioning the units adds up to a real number that is seldom mentioned. Typical large units can be as tall as 400 feet and weigh up to 300 tons.
The actual pay-back of this “green technology” in terms of replacing fossil fuels and overall environmental benefit, including monetary outlay, is probably in decades rather than years. SOURCE