Unleashing the power of wind: Comparing the advantages of an 80/20 repower vs. a full repower

By: Jason Utton and Courtney Schmidt

Wind energy has long been celebrated for its clean, consistent, and cost-effective nature. As wind energy facilities age, many owners are beginning to explore the benefits of upgrading their turbines and equipment. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has further incentivized these upgrades, making now an ideal time to consider your repower options.

According to S&P Global, over 48 gigawatts (GW) of operational wind power capacity are prime repower candidates based on advanced age. Among this group, 21 GW of older wind farms have been consistently underperforming, with annual capacity factors below the state averages for five consecutive years. Additionally, 2.6 GW of generation has experienced declining annual capacity factors over the same period.​

Presently, S&P indicates that around 16 GW of wind capacity has been repowered or is in the process of repowering. This trend is expected to steadily increase month over month, especially in states leading the charge in renewable energy refurbishment. Financial considerations such as tax credits, PPA negotiations, and changes in utility rates play a significant role in decision-making. We’ll walk you through the advantages of both an 80/20 repower and a full repower in this blog.

 

The 80/20 repower: Boosting efficiency with minimal disruption

An 80/20 repower involves replacing critical components of the wind turbine, such as blades and gearboxes, while retaining portions of the existing infrastructure. This approach is cost-effective and less disruptive than a full repower, offering a significant increase in efficiency and performance without the need for a completely new development. To qualify, the cost of new equipment must be at least 80% of the total value of both the new and remaining equipment combined.

Repower developers benefit from the known wind resource and renewed tax incentives that lower the capital cost, making them more economically feasible. Federal tax incentives include production tax credits (PTC), which provide a 10-year tax credit for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, and investment tax credits (ITC), which provide a one-time tax credit based on the capital investment made. The improved tax incentives make repowering an attractive option for many project owners, promoting the sustainable growth of the renewable energy sector.

80/20 repower advantages include:

  • Cost savings: By retaining most of the existing infrastructure, the costs associated with new foundations and extensive construction are minimized.
  • Time efficiency: Upgrading key components is quicker than developing a new site from scratch, reducing downtime, and allowing for faster realization of increased energy output.
  • Increased output: Modern turbine technology can significantly boost energy production, leveraging advancements in blade design and aerodynamics.

 

Atwell’s expertise in 80/20 repower projects

Atwell’s team specializes in providing a seamless, coordinated approach to wind repower projects. With over 500 wind projects and more than 20 GW of experience across the United States and Canada, our expertise ensures compliance with environmental regulations, effective landowner engagement, and precise engineering and survey review.

Our comprehensive services include:

  • Environmental compliance and permitting: We ensure all necessary studies and permits are in place, maintaining strict adherence to environmental regulations. The team also ensures all necessary permits are obtained in the most cost-efficient manner.
  • Land services: We facilitate lease amendments and waivers, ensuring a smooth progression of the repower project.
  • Engineering services: From road engineering to structural analysis, we optimize project design and performance.
  • Survey services: Updated ALTA and topographic surveys provide the precise site data essential for planning and development.

 

The full repower: Reimagining wind energy from the ground up

A full repower involves replacing nearly all components of a wind farm–turbine (including foundations), towers, and underground electrical systems–to maximize energy output and integrate the latest technological advancements. This upgrade is best for older projects where structural integrity, efficiency, and reliability have declined due to wear and outdated technology. Modern turbines offer enhanced blade designs, improved materials, advanced control systems, and increased hub heights, significantly boosting performance and reducing maintenance costs.

Full repower advantages include:

  • Maximized energy production: By replacing all major components, a full repower utilizes the latest technology to achieve the highest possible energy output.
  • Extended lifespan: New components come with extended warranties and longer operational life, providing a reliable energy source for decades.
  • Future-proofing: A full repower prepares the wind farm for future advancements and grid requirements, ensuring long-term viability.

 

Atwell’s full repower expertise

With extensive experience managing over 1,100 megawatts of repower projects across key states like Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota, Atwell brings unparalleled expertise to full repower projects. Our comprehensive approach ensures meticulous planning and expert execution across all critical stages.

Our full repower services include:

  • Thorough desktop reviews: Using GIS technology, we analyze existing infrastructure, proposed routes, and project areas.
  • Asset valuation and analysis: We provide robust support throughout the analysis phase, ensuring accurate asset valuation.
  • Environmental and permitting services: From field reconnaissance to wildlife conservation strategies, we handle all permitting requirements.
  • Real estate services: Our team navigates agreements, conducts deed research, and facilitates necessary waivers and amendments.
  • Engineering and mapping: We provide aerial mapping and create detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) documents tailored to each project’s specifications.

 

Generating efficiency with streamlined planning and expertise

Embarking on a wind repower project, whether an 80/20 repower or a full repower, requires meticulous planning and coordination. Atwell’s national team and strong program management framework ensure each step is completed according to the development plan. Our centralized documentation and forward-looking conservation and development resources provide our clients with a comprehensive solution that maximizes return on investment.

By partnering with Atwell, you gain access to a wealth of experience and a dedicated team that delivers the greatest possible return on your wind energy investment. Ready to harness the full potential of your wind energy facility? Let Atwell guide you through your wind repower journey with expertise and efficiency.

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