Solutions for lifetime extension of wind turbines

End-of-life solutions for wind turbines

Beginning with the end in mind

Reading time approx. 3 minutes

By the mid of 2020 the global installed wind power capacity has already exceeded 650 GW [1]. More than one third of those installed in Germany, Spain and Denmark already exceed 15 years of operation [2]. Since wind turbines have been historically designed to last 20 years, most of them have the end of their lifetime in sight. As the installed capacity of wind turbines matures in all other countries, the market for solutions for lifetime extension for wind turbines continues to rise every year. An opportunity to tackle this challenge from its root cause. Our articles explain how new sensing technology and data science has come to optimize wind turbines from cradle to grave.

Expansion of wind power over the last 20 years
Lifetime extension of wind turbines necessary in 1/3 of the turbines

Focus on lifetime extension for wind turbines. But, how did we get here

The oldest wind turbines in the market were born when wind energy was a marginal source of electricity. Back then, smaller projects for today’s standards were supported with generous feed-in-tariffs. Such reduced financial uncertainty invited market participants to aim first at securing the relatively abundant best sites for installation. Reducing the cost of energy was mostly achieved via CAPEX1 by upscaling wind turbines and improving economies of scale. Conservative wind turbine designs were brought to dominate the market. R&D2 focused on better understanding the physics involved in extracting wind energy as well as to improve materials suited for manufacturing.

As the contribution of wind energy became relevant, electricity market integration and ecological preservation grew in importance. Wind turbines were already found almost everywhere, including some offshore prototypes, which were seen as a natural evolution of their peers onshore. Reducing the cost of energy was mostly achieved via OPEX3 by introducing centralized control rooms and installing condition monitoring systems in the drivetrain. R&D efforts were aimed at mitigating the impact of fluctuating wind energy and the unexpected down-time of every-increasing wind turbines.

Trends of public R&D investment (left) and number of inventions (right) classified per country or region [3]

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Where are we now?

Nowadays, in liberal electricity markets wind energy competes with traditional sources. With fewer sites onshore in mature markets, site-specific design and optimization gain in relevance. Lifetime extension of wind turbines dominates other EOL4 alternatives for old turbines. New sensing technology, high internet speed, lower cost of data storage and ubiquitous statistical tools fuel innovation. Reducing the cost of energy is expected to come from digitalizing the whole value chain. R&D is aimed at forecasting wind energy for its integration to electricity grids, maximizing energy production with wind farm control and, monitoring wind turbines to find anomalous behavior and optimize their lifetime consumption.

Lifetime extension wind turbines

Forecasted trend of levelized cost of energy (LCOE) according to a survey of wind energy experts [4]

How fos4X can help you?

We introduced retroX, a stand-alone bundle aimed at improving the whole value chain and support the lifetime extension of wind turbines. It includes our sensor platform fos4Blade, specifically designed with fiber optic sensors to withstand harsh wind conditions, a physical library for wind turbine designers at manufacturers and, our performance apps for decision makers in operators. We designed our IIoT5 solutions to run either on the edge or in the cloud to ease their integration into any system configuration.

We know it is a lot to digest. That is why we will guide you through the details in the next articles. Stay tuned!

Download the white paper on lifetime extension for wind turbines now!

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1 CAPEX: CAPital EXpenditure
2 OPEX: OPerational EXpenditure
3 R&D: Research and Development
4 EOL: End-Of-Life
5 IIoT: Industrial Internet of Things


[1] World Wind Energy Association Library, Global Wind Installations – Total installed capacity [April 16, 2020]

[2] Ziegler, L. et al., Lifetime extension of onshore wind turbines: A review covering Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the UK, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 1216-1271

[3] Telsnig, T. et al., Wind energy – Technology market report, Low Carbon Energy Observatory – European Commission, EUR 29922 EN, 2019

[4] Wiser, R. et al., Forecasting wind energy costs and cost drivers: The views of the world’s leading experts, IEA Wind Task 26, 2016