Wind Power

Wind is one of the main sources of renewable energy, alongside solar, geothermal and hydro. Wind turbines can be located on land (onshore) or in the sea or freshwater (offshore) and harness the energy of moving air to generate electricity. Utility-scale turbines may vary considerably in size, typically ranging from approximately 700kW to 5,000kW in capacity.

Wind power currently accounts for around 2.6% of global electricity production (and as much as 20% in some countries). Capacity increased approximately 13 times between 2000 and 2011, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts, with further expansion, wind could be producing as much as 18% of global power by 2050. Increasing the share of wind power (and other renewables) in the global energy mix is key to tackling climate change but the IEA warns major investment will be needed to reach these levels. The nearly 300 gigawatts of current wind power worldwide must increase eight- to ten-fold to achieve the roadmap’s vision, with the more than $78 billion in investment in 2012 progressively reaching $150 billion per year.

The new targets are based on the IEA’s recognition that significant progress has been made in the last four years, with technology improving rapidly and costs of generation for onshore wind installations continuing to fall. In many countries, wind power is now being deployed without any dedicated financial resources, and many countries have established national targets, committing to source a fixed percentage of their national energy from renewable sources by a fixed date. Today, wind power provides 30% of Denmark’s total generation and 20% of Portugal’s. In Spain in 2013, 21.1% of the total 246,166 GWh of electricity consumed in the country was produced by the wind – driving emissions down by over 23%. The UK also saw records broken last year, with wind accounting for as much as 17% of demand on certain days. India, Brazil and Mexico have all also seen growth in wind production, as well as Africa, where new installations are expected to boom in 2014, led by South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The IEA predicts that China will overtake OECD Europe as the leading producer of wind power by 2020 or 2025, with the United States ranked third. Wind power deployment under this vision would save up to 4.8 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions per year by 2050. 

As with solar, tremendous growth in the wind sector has seen a growing stable of commentators and experts to declare that the energy transition tipping point is here, and that it is becoming increasingly clear that renewables are unstoppableNew wind is already cheaper than new coal in Australia and the situation is mirrored in many other places globally.

As renewable energy grows, it will increasingly eat the lunch of fossil fuel utilities, while energy efficiency and green homes that are cheaper to run and build will further slow consumption, undermining profits of dirty incumbents, and increasing the political clout of the cleaner solutions sector. Grandfather utilities – unwilling or unable to adapt – will be increasingly threatened by this speed and spread of clean technology.

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  • “It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound, but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging,” he said in a statement. “Two trends, in particular, are worth picking out ‒ the increasing share of small-scale solar in overall investment, following a 50 per cent plus improvement in PV’s levelised cost of electricity per MW over the last four years; and the geographical expansion of investment to more and more emerging economies. In Q1, we saw two of the top four asset finance deals happening in Indonesia and Kenya.” – Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for BNEF, 16 April 2014
  • “Political uncertainty is deterring financiers and investors and has already caused job losses and negative financial result announcements…By deterring wind energy investment, Governments are throwing away opportunities to create jobs and growth in Europe, improve security of energy supply, cut the cost of fossil fuel imports, reduce pollution and tackle climate change.”    —European Wind Energy Association, “Special statement on the European energy uncertainty crisis”, Mar. 8, 2012
  • “By directly reducing the use of fossil fuels, wind energy significantly reduces the emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants.” – American Wind Energy Association, “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Wind, Backup Power, and Emissions,” 2012
  • “The apocalyptic views about what it will cost to shift the world to renewable energy simply aren’t true. Three years ago, we thought wind and solar would be cheap as chips, and they’ve even gone below that.”  – Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Apr. 22, 2013
  • “To those who say we just can’t afford to prioritise green energy right now, my view is we can’t afford not to.”  – UK Prime Minister David Cameron, speech at the launch of Department for Energy and Climate Change’s energy efficiency mission, Feb. 12, 2013

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