When the Wind Blows - the Turbines Turn
Mankind has the wisdom history of harnessing the wind's energy for hundreds of years. From old Holland to farms in the United States, windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain.
“There is huge and growing global demand for emissions-free wind power, which can be installed quickly, virtually everywhere in the world. Wind energy is the only power generation technology that can deliver the necessary carbon dioxide emissions reduction in the critical period up to 2020, when greenhouse gases must peak and begin to decline to avoid dangerous climate change,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of Global Wind Energy Council.
Today, the windmill shoulders a much greater mission to the rescue of mankind - to generate electricity and to reduce global warming! In the past 15 years, the cost of wind energy has more than halved, and its production per unit of capacity has more than doubled. In general, a single modern wind turbine can produce 180 times more electricity annually, at less than half the cost per kWh than its equivalent 20 years ago.
Wind energy is now an important player in the world’s energy markets. Wind now provides more power than other renewable energies such as solar or biofuels. The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was worth about 36.5bn EUR or USD$47.5bn. Wind now provides 1.5 percent of the world's energy demand, up from 0.1 percent in 1997.
Top 10 total capacity 2006
Top 10 new installed capacity 2006
Global demand for wind power capacity grew by 41% in 2005 and 32% in 2006, exceeding market expectations. Wind energy has become a mainstream energy source. The tremendous growth is an indication of the huge potential wind energy can offer as a renewable energy source. Total worldwide installations in 2008 were 27 GW, dominated by the three main markets of the US, Germany and China.
Global wind energy capacity grew by 28.8% last year, even higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total global installations of more than 120.8 GW at the end of 2008.
The United States again led in new installations, surpassing Germany to rank first in cumulative capacity and electricity generation from the wind.
Germany still lead in Europe in wind power and has the most advanced technology in this field. Wind power currently accounts for 6% of Germany’s total electrical power produced, offering 70 000 job opportunities.
2/3 of global wind
capacity was installed in Europe during the last decade. It accounts for approximately
20% of electricity
Denmark, 10% in
Portugal, and 7% in
Germany and the
Republic of Ireland. For the first time in 2008, wind power capacity
Based on current estimates, the European Wind Energy Association ( EWEA ) predicts that in the EU alone, 80 GW will be installed by the end of 2010. The United Kingdom, France, Portugal and Italy are expecting annual average growth rates of over 20% between 2006 and 2010.
Catching up from behind are China, India and other Asia countries with a total growth of 53%. Asia accounts for 24% of new installations. China added some 6.3 GW to bring its total installed capacity to over 12.2 GW by 2008, surpassing its 2010 goal of 10 GW. Deputy chief of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Department of the State Energy Administration revealed that China will likely achieve an installed base of wind power totaling 30,000 MW by the end of 2010, ten years ahead of the plan that was adopted less than two years ago.
India ranked third in wind capacity additions in 2008, with 1.8 GW of new wind added, and is now fifth worldwide for cumulative capacity—after the United States, Germany, Spain, and China—with a total of 9.6 GW.
Growth in the African and Middle Eastern markets are picking up in 2006, with 172 MW of new installed capacity, bringing the total to 441 MW. This represents a 63% growth, offering a promising future for wind energy for the new players.
What makes wind renewable energy so popular:
The minor disadvantages may be some visual impacts relating to appearances and flickering shadows from the spinning turbines, low level sound pollution and the likelihood of accidental killing of flying birds and bats.
Wind power is a variable resource as its power output fluctuates greatly and rapidly with wind speed, wind directions and air density. If wind speed is too low (less than about 2.5m/s) the wind turbines will not rotate. But if it is too high (more than about 25m/s) the turbines need to be shut down to avoid damages. This intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when demand is low. When greater energy is in demand, additional costs for compensation of intermittency though needed are normally reasonable as all power transmission has inbuilt safety means to maintain grid stability.
While the power generated from a single turbine fluctuates greatly, more turbines can be used to smoothen the overall power output. A study in the United States recommended the use of ten or more widely-separated wind farms to feed energy generated into the grid. As such output of 33% - 47% could be relied upon.
Large scale wind farms are grid interactive with the power transmission network, with smaller turbines being used to provide electricity to isolated locations. Many utility companies offer incentive schemes to buy back surplus electricity from domestic installers; enabling them to accumulate credits to offset their energy consumption.
Offshore installation is more expensive than onshore due to extra costs incurred against salt related corrosion and installation of undersea cable for power transmission, new skills, boats and reconstruction of national grid to withstand current fluctuations and intermittence. Such farms tend to be quite large, often involving over 100 turbines, as extra cost is averaged by the added capacity.
At present, the United Kingdom Britain has the highest number of turbines at sea in the world. It plan to use offshore wind turbines to generate enough power to light every home in the U.K. by 2020. Denmark is another country that has many offshore wind farms.
Canada is pursuing several proposed near-shore locations in the
Great Lakes, including a project by Trillium Power with capacity of
700 MW .
The growth of the market for wind energy is being driven by a number of factors, including the wider context of energy supply and demand, the rising profile of environmental issues, especially climate change, and the impressive improvements in the technology itself. These factors have combined in many regions of the world to encourage political support for the industry’s development.( GWEC )
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