The dependence on energy imports in the European Union is already 50% and it is expected to rise over the coming years. Developing local sources to meet our energy needs means that we import less fuel from other states, which benefits to the local economy.
Wind is a completely renewable power source. It is a technology we can sustain over the long term.
It won't pollute our air and water, and it won't produce wastes that will pile up year after year, nor will it emit carbon dioxide or any other gasses contributing to global warming.
Wind energy can also help diversify the economies of rural communities.
In addition wind energy can provide new sources of income in rural areas, as well as jobs for people who set up and maintain the turbines or manage wind farms. Employment opportunities range from meteorologists and surveyors to structural engineers, assembly workers, and mechanics and operators.
Statistics show that every Megawatt of new wind capacity creates 15-19 jobs and about 60 person-years of employment.
What is the future potential of wind technology?
The wind industry internationally is able to provide at least 12% of the world’s future electricity needs by 2020 – even if current consumption doubles.
Wind has been the fastest growing energy technology in the world for the past decade, and the pace of growth has been greatest in Europe, where around 80% of the world's wind equipment is installed .
Much of that growth is due to cost reductions and progressive government policies.
Wind power currently makes up a small percentage of our total energy picture, but the rate at which it is growing promises to make it an important part of our energy mix in the future. The average size of new machines being installed has been growing from some hundred kW to more than 1 MW, and machines with more than 4 MW generating capacity are already on the market. Such bigger machines allow to produce far more power on a given site and as a consequence a process of re-powering (i.e. replacement of old smaller turbines by new bigger ones) has already started.
What specifically does wind power offer to the EU?
- In the long term, the EU objective is to create a sustainable energy supply based to a large extent on Renewable Energy Sources (RES). Wind can contribute substantially to total EU power generation.
How does it contribute to achieving EU objectives?
In the EU White Paper on RES, wind energy is part of EU action to double the share of RES from 6% in 1998 to 12% in 2010. The White Paper estimates that if production of wind turbines continues to increase by the same rate, the yearly installation of turbines in 2010 will amount to a generating capacity of more than 20 GW and the accumulated capacity will be more than 100 GW.
The EU initiated a “Campaign for Take-Off” for RES including 10 GW of wind energy to provide a basis for wider implementation of wind powered electricity generation under more difficult conditions. A contribution of 40 GW wind power in the RES development by 2010 for the EU15, might appear ambitious, but can be achieved given the strength of the present trend.
A look into the future
What are the future applications of Wind?
Wind turbines will continue to be used for the direct generation of pollution-free electricity. Future applications are increasingly focused on integration of wind turbines with the existing power grid and with energy storage devices.
How can this technology be used in the short, medium and long term?
Wind energy is already used to a large extent in several Member States of the European Union.
While most present installations are on land, the trend is towards large size offshore wind parks with generating capacities comparable to conventional power stations.
Wind energy can also be used off grid, e.g. for electricity supply to isolated residences or charging of batteries and for non-electric applications like water pumping.
What are the research and technological development requirements?
- To further increase the wind market the key issues are to reduce investment costs, ensure easy integration and introduce an efficient energy storage system, to overcome the problem of wind intermittence.
- Further pre-market R&D efforts should be carried out in three main areas:
- Improved materials, components and design for wind turbines;
- Low-cost wind turbine integration into existing power grids;
- Intelligent and low-cost control systems;
- Research into electricity storage
How can we develop a stronger market for wind technology?
In addition to technological development, market development is a prerequisite for further growth. Namely:
- Setting the legal, fiscal and political framework: A major factor in the recent market success of wind energy in Member States such as Denmark, Spain or Germany, has been the right of access to feed wind power into the grid and the guaranteed minimum price to be paid by utilities for this power. Any major changes that might be made in this regulatory structure should encourage and not jeopardise the appropriate development of wind energy.
- Building a 21st century image: the creation of an image for wind as modern and high tech but at the same time environmentally benign, could greatly contribute to market growth. It is also necessary to address issues like impact on the landscape, competing use of land and marine sites and interference with other human activities like aviation and telecommunication.