If you’re wondering how much it costs to install a wind turbine then in this article I’ll break it down for you. However, you may need to be a bit more specific with your question, because the cost varies wildly, depending on a number of factors.
It costs between $150 and $1,000,000 or more to install a wind turbine, depending on the size and location. A small wind turbine for a house can cost as little as $150 to install. A giant 15 MW offshore wind turbine can cost many millions of dollars to install out at sea.
Before I start explaining what the costs are, and why they differ so much, here’s a handy chart to show you at a glance how much each different type of turbine costs to install, depending on where you’re installing it.
Note: These include the cost of the wind turbine itself – see further down this page for a full breakdown of costs.
|Home-size < 10kw||$300 – $3,000||n/a|
|Micro < 15kw||$3,000 – $15,000||n/a|
|Small ~ 50kw||$500,000 – $1M||n/a|
|Medium 250 – 850kw||$1M+||n/a|
|Large/Industrial – 2 MW+||$1.5M+||$20M+|
So, to help you get the information you’re looking for, let’s first clarify what type of wind turbine you’re talking about, and also where it’s going to be installed.
The #1 Biggest Factor that Affects Turbine Installation Costs
One factor—more than any other—determines the cost of installing a wind turbine; and that is whether it’s being installed on dry land (i.e. ‘onshore’), or if it’s being installed out in the ocean—as part of an array of wind turbines (i.e. an offshore wind farm.)
However, you’re probably wondering how much it costs to install a wind turbine to reduce your home electricity costs? Or maybe to generate extra revenue for your farm. (And, in both cases, to help the environment too!)
As you can see from the chart above, installing a wind turbine onshore, on dry land—like adding one to your home or residential property or farm—will cost far less than an offshore wind turbine costs to install out at sea.
It costs millions of dollars to install offshore wind turbines out at sea. Due to the extreme costs involved, offshore wind farms are only feasible for large corporations with very deep pockets.
So, for the rest of this article I’ll assume you’re wanting to know more about how much it costs to install windmills onshore.
Breakdown of Onshore Wind Turbine Installation Costs
There are quite a few other factors which significantly affect the cost of installing a wind turbine on dry land.
1. Size of Wind Turbine(s)
A large industrial size 3 Megawatt wind turbine with 45 metre rotors (blades) costs millions of dollars, whereas a small 400w turbine to install on a home can be bought off Amazon for as little as $189.99 or less.
A large wind turbine will need a concrete foundation digging, and all the associated civil engineering costs for plant hire, labour, aggregates, steel and so on.
In contrast, a very small home-size wind turbine can be bolted on to the side of your house for no cost (other than perhaps a bit of DIY on your part!)
2. Grid Connection Costs
If you’re installing the wind turbine to generate electricity that you export, and sell for an extra income, then you will very likely have to pay for a grid connection. Depending on the size of your wind turbine, grid connections can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The cost of connecting a wind farm—with multiple turbines—can be many millions of dollars.
Here in the UK I was recently quoted £17 million for a grid connection for a wind farm we’re developing. That’s about $12.4 million at current exchange rates.
The cost of installing medium and large industrial size turbines can also be very much affected by how good the road access is leading up to the turbine…
3. Access roads & alterations
In some parts of the world, road access can be very tricky. Engineers may (with permission of the local authorities) actually alter roads and verges leading up to the wind farm site.
In some cases road access may not even exist, and temporary access tracking (mats) may have to be laid after the ground is prepared beforehand.
In the most extreme cases, turbines may even have to be delivered by sea!
For example, a wind turbine I co-own on an island in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland, United Kingdom, had to be delivered by beach landing craft. There was no other way of getting the turbine on the island! The cost of installing that wind turbine were vastly more than a standard installation on the mainland. (For one very big reason, which I’ll get to in a moment.)
If the turbine is being installed on a very soft ground then the foundation may need piling. This is an extra cost, which isn’t necessary if the turbine is being installed on chalky land, or even better, solid rock!
5. DIY, or third-party installers?
If you’re a qualified electrician and are a DIY pro, then you can save a small fortune installing the turbine yourself. In this case you’ll only be looking at the cost of the wind turbine itself, plus maybe hiring plant and possibly a few specialists to help with key parts of the installation.
Three Hidden Costs of Installing a Wind Turbine
Yes, the weather can be a hidden factor that greatly affects installation costs!
Let’s say for example that you have hired two cranes to install the turbine. (You need two cranes to lift the tower sections – one at either end.)
If on the day of the install there are very strong winds, then you may not be able to lift the tower sections, or the nacelle for that matter. In that scenario you may need to rehire the cranes for another day, so you can retry.
Costs can quickly ramp up if bad weather coincides with your planned installation days.
And here’s a ‘worst case scenario’.
If you have to hire beach landing craft to deliver the wind turbine to a remote island. If the weather’s too bad on the planned day of delivery, the skipper may abort the delivery, and tell you that have to wait until the weather calms down.
In this scenario, you may find delivery costs are significantly higher than you budgeted for.
(Unfortunately, I’m talking from personal experience here! This actually happened to me and my business partner, trying to deliver the turbine to the island mentioned above.)
2. Legal Costs
If you’re installing a wind turbine on someone else’s land then you will of course need to have the correct legal agreements in place.
Legal fees can very quickly escalate, depending on how complex things are.
For example more complex situations are when a farm is owned by multiple individuals, or if you’re trying to develop a wind farm that spans multiple farms.
The final hidden cost is actually a ‘negative cost’ – a money saver…
3. Using a Second Hand (Refurbished) Turbine(s)
All of the costs mentioned in this article assume that the wind turbine is brand new.
However, if you use a second-hand, refurbished or remanufactured wind turbine, you can reduce the total installation costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even by millions of dollars if you’re installing a large wind farm with multiple turbines.