What Are The Wind Energy Facts On The Renewable Wind Energy Industry?

What are the wind energy facts on the renewable wind energy industry? There is much to be impressed about and there are cautions.

In reviewing these facts we should always think about purpose of wind energy. It has mainly come about as a result of fears of climate change.

You can now even build a wind generator yourself and get your own free wind power. But can wind energy play a significant role in ameliorating this climate change real threat?

You judge.

Wind Energy Facts. Does wind energy represent the road ahead to a sustainable, flourishing world?

Wind energy facts – it’s solar power, stupid!

Wind energy is possible through nothing more than airflows created by different air temperatures in different locations. Of course the sun brings about these Earthly dynamics. Hence wind energy is solar energy.

Wind energy facts – a little history

The earliest known use of wind power is by the Egyptians some 5000 years ago, who used it to sail their boats from shore to shore on the Nile. Around 2000BC the first windmill was built in Babylon.

And is wasn’t The Netherlands but Afghanistan that was using large windmills, as high as 30 feet, with 16-foot long blades by the 10th century BC. Chinese and Persian windmills for grain milling date from at least the 13th century.

Wind energy facts. The history of human use of  wind energy goes back at least 5000 years. The Dutch wind energy experience dates from the 14th century.

Having said that I have to acknowledge my own Dutch heritage and point to the centuries old windmill technology used by the Dutch. From 1390 in fact. Without windmills to pump water at least a third of the Netherlands would still be covered by water.

These are serious wind energy facts bearing in mind predictions of significant ocean level rises from mnelting glaciers and polar ice. Windmills will no longer be enough.

But of course global warming is a more recent widespread concern that drives the wind energy movement. The oil crisis in the 1970’s first kick-started the current interest in wind power and renewable energy in general.

Wind energy facts – size of the industry

In 2005 wind energy generated less than one percent of global energy and generated 58,982 MW worldwide. By end 2008 it measured 27,051 MW. 8% of Europe electricity is derived from wind, well ahead of coal and natural gas. The US is the country with the largest wind energy capacity and China surpassed its 2010 target of 10,000 to reach 12,200 MW.

Wind capacity grew by 21% in 2004, 24% in 2005, and 29% in 2008, with growth rates now further increasing. China alone aims to raise its wind capacity to 100,000 MW by 2020.

In 2005 some 235,000 people were employed in the wind industry – and that is not counting politicians! By 2008, some 400,000 are employed in this industry.

Wind energy facts - Where is it used?

In 2005 Europe was the biggest user of wind energy of all continents, representing 55% of global wind energy capacity with Germany and Spain the leading European countries.By 2008 the US has that distinction.

America, that is North- and South America combined, have 17% of global capacity. 98% of that proportion resides in North America. The USA was the fastest growing wind energy producer in the world in 2005. Now it is China. Canada’s capacity is growing fast and Spain, Argentina and Brazil have emerging wind energy industries,.

Asia, in 2005, had a wind energy growth rate of 48% in 2005, adding 2.263 MW capacity to total 7,022 MW. China and India account for most of this as fast emerging industrialised nations and ranked fourth in the world with 4,430 MW capacity. By 2008, Asia accounts for almost one-third global wind capacity. China now ranks fourth, behind the US, Germany and Spain, and is on track for a capacity of 100 GW by 2020. Pakistan is another fast-emerging wind energy nation with its first major wind farm finished in 2006. By 2009 it has committed itself to develop a 1000 wind energy capacity in the next few years.

In Australia and the Pacific the Australian capacity in 2005 was 572 MW. By 2008 it is 1306 GW with 50 wind farms.

In 2005 the continent of Africa has the lowest wind energy capacity with 252 MW capacity. IByh end 2008 it has slightly overtaken South America with 669 MW. Egypt and Morocco entered into wind energy projects with the aid of international development funds and by end 2008 have 365 MW and 134 MW respectively. The first wind farm in the Middle East was built in the UAE on Sir Baniyas Island.

Iran, a major oil producer, commissioned a 10 MW in 2005. By end 2008 it has 85 MW capacity. Lets hope wind will be preferred to nuclear energy there.

Wind energy facts – What does it cost?

Costs depend on the scale of the wind turbine, available wind and ease of maintenance so they are difficult to pinpoint. Off-shore wind farms are more expensive to maintain than land –based plants as access to them has to be by ship.

Wind power costs are falling due to economies of scale and new technology. In 2005 the cost of wind energy was one-fifth its cost in 1999 and some say that USA wind power is now lower than that of fossil-fuel energy generation. The rising cost of oil has of course had a major impact here.

With further developments in wind energy technology and scale, its cost is expected to continue to drop.

Wind energy facts – required wind speed

Generally wind generators run productively from a minimum of 20 km per hour. The wind’s effectiveness is greater the higher a turbine is placed. Ideally a wind turbine should be located in a place where there is a near constant flow of non-turbulent wind throughout the year. Further locations with too many sudden strong gusts of wind should be avoided.

Further wind energy facts

  • In 2006, seven wind turbines off the coast of Dublin, Ireland, represent the largest wind turbines in the world with a capacity of 3.6 MW each. By 2009, the largest wind farm is located in the US. It is the Florida Power and Light's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, in Taylor County, Texas. It has 421 wind turbines with a capacity of 735 megawatts.

  • There are three British offshore wind farms with a combined capacity of 210 MW.

  • Wind's long-term technical potential is believed to be five times the 2006 global energy consumption or 40 times 2006 electricity demand. This would require 13% of all land area, meaning that land area with enough wind energy potential at a height of 80 meters. This assumes a placement of six large wind turbines per square kilometre on land. With offshore wind power plants this ratio is better as these can deliver seven times the energy as land-based plants.

Do we really want a global land- and seascape like that?

And what if it could abate global warming?

Of course wind power energy is only ever a part of any nation’s total energy use so by itself it cannot solve global warming. Cars for instance do not run on wind energy.

And there are some other downsides to wind energy as there are with all forms of energy.

The answer to clean energy then is likely to be a mix of renewable energy sources - perhaps as well as nuclear power.

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