The global wind power market generated $63 billion in 2009 and employed over half a million people, according to figures issued by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
The 158 GW of global wind capacity in place at the end of 2009 will produce 340 TWh (terawatt-hour) of clean electricity and save 204 million tons of CO2 every year. As we see in Europe and the US, wind power is now often the most attractive option for new power generation, both in economic and environmental terms, and for improved supply security.
According to figures published by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), 39 per cent of all new energy generating technology in the EU last year was wind power. This was followed by gas, which made up 26 per cent of all energy generating technologies and solar photovoltaics (16 per cent).
Altogether, renewable energy generating technologies accounted for 61 per cent of all new power generating capacity in 2009. The report also found that Europe decommissioned more coal and nuclear capacity than it installed last year, while investment in new European wind farms reached 13 billion euros in 2009.
Worldwide Wind Power Installed Capacity Start 2010
Top Ten Countries -MW
1. United States- 35,159
2. Germany- 25,777
3. China- 25,104
4. Spain- 19,149
5. India -10,926
6. Italy -4,850
7. France -4,492
8. United Kingdom- 4,051
9. Portugal- 3,535
10. Denmark- 3,465
Top Ten Wind Turbines manufacturers by megawatts installed worldwide in 2009
1. Vestas (Denmark) -35,000 MW
2. Enercon (Germany) -19,000 MW
3. Gamesa (Spain) -16,000 MW
4. GE Energy (United States) -15,000 MW
5. Siemens (Denmark / Germany) -8,800 MW
6. Suzlon (India) -6,000MW
7. Nordex (Germany) -5,400 MW
8. Acciona (Spain) -4,300 MW
9. REpower (Germany) -3,000 MW
10. Goldwind (China) -2,889 MW
Other wind turbines manufactures: Alstom Ecotècnia (France), A Power Energy Systems ltd. (China), Areva (France), Clipper Windpower (USA), Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (Korea), DeWind (Germany/USA, bought by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in 2009), Dongfang (China), Doosan (Korea), Fuhrländer (Germany), Hanjin (Korea), Hyosung (Korea), Hyundai Heavy Industries (Korea), Lagerwey Wind (The Netherlands), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan), NEG Micon (now part of Vestas), Northern Power Systems (USA), PacWind (USA), Quantum Wind Power (Canada), Raum Energy Inc. (Canada – Global supplier of 1.3kW and 3.5kW systems), Samsung Heavy Industries (Korea), Scanwind (Norway, bought by General Electric in 2009), Sinovel (China), Southwest Windpower (USA), STX Corporation (Korea), Vernet (France), Windflow (New Zealand), Winwind (Finland).
Top Myths About Wind Energy
Many people make many claims about wind turbines and the effects that they allegedly have. We’ve collated our favourites and given the answers.
1. Myth: Tens of thousands of wind turbines will be cluttering the countryside
Fact: Government legislation requires that by 2010, 10% of electricity supply must come from renewable sources. Wind power is currently the most cost effective renewable energy technology in a position to help do that. Around 3,500 additional modern wind turbines are all that would be needed to deliver 8% of the UK’s electricity by 2010, roughly 2,000 onshore and 1,500 offshore.
2. Myth: Wind farms won’t help climate change
Fact: Wind power is a clean, renewable source of energy which produces no greenhouse gas emissions or waste products. Power stations are the largest contributor to carbon emissions. We need to switch to forms of energy that do not produce CO2. Just one modern wind turbine will save over 4,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
3. Myth: Building a wind farm takes more energy than it ever makes
Fact: The average wind farm will pay back the energy used in its manufacture within 3-5 months of operation. This compares favourably with coal or nuclear power stations, which take about six months. A modern wind turbine is designed to operate for more than 20 years and at the end of its working life, the area can be restored at low financial and environmental costs. Wind energy is a form of development which is essentially reversible – in contrast to fossil fuel or nuclear power stations.
4. Myth: Wind farms are inefficient and only work 30% of the time
Fact: A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs depending on the wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will typically generate about 30% of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load factor. The load factor of conventional power stations is on average 50% . A modern wind turbine will generate enough to meet the electricity demands of more than a thousand homes over the course of a year.
5. Myth: Wind energy needs back-up to work
Fact: All forms of power generation require back up and no energy technology can be relied upon 100%. The transmission system already operates with enough back-up to manage the instantaneous loss of a large power station. Variations in the output from wind farms are barely noticeable over and above the normal fluctuation in supply and demand, seen when the nation’s workforce goes home, or if lightning brings down a high-voltage transmission line. Therefore, at present there is no need for additional back-up because of wind energy. Even for wind power to provide 10% of yhe electricity needs, only a small amount of additional conventional back-up would be required. This would add only 0.2 pence per kilowatt hour to the generation cost of wind energy and would not in any way threaten the security of our grid. In fact, this is unlikely to become a significant issue until wind generates over 20% of total electricity supply.
6. Myth: Installing wind farms will never shut down power stations
Fact: The simple fact is that power plants are being shut down, either through European legislation on emissions or sheer old age. We need to act now to find replacement power sources: wind is an abundant resource, indigenous and therefore has a vital role to play in the new energy portfolio.
7. Myth: Wind power is expensive
Fact: The cost of generating electricity from wind has fallen dramatically over the past few years. Between 1990 and 2002, world wind energy capacity doubled every three years and with every doubling prices fell by 15%. Wind energy is competitive with new coal and new nuclear capacity, even before any environmental costs of fossil fuel and nuclear generation are taken into account. The average cost of generating electricity from onshore wind is now competitive with new coal and cheaper than new nuclear. As gas prices increase and wind power costs fall – both of which are very likely – wind becomes even more competitive, so much so that some time after 2010 wind should challenge gas as the lowest cost power source. Furthermore, the wind is a free and widely available fuel source, therefore once the wind farm is in place, there are no fuel or waste related costs.
8. Myth: Wind farms should all be put out at sea
Fact: We will need a mix of both onshore and offshore wind energy to meet the challenging targets on climate change. At present, onshore wind is more economical than development offshore. However, more offshore wind farms are now under construction, with the first of the large-scale projects operational at the end of 2003, and prices will fall as the industry gains more experience. Furthermore, offshore wind farms take longer to develop, as the sea is inherently a more hostile environment. To expect offshore to be the only form of wind generation allowed would therefore be to condemn us to missing our renewable energy targets and commitment to tackle climate change.
10. Myth: Wind farms are ugly and unpopular
Fact: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whether you think a wind turbine is attractive or not will always be your personal opinion. However, studies regularly show that most people find turbines an interesting feature of the landscape. On average 80% of the public support wind energy, less than 10% are against it, with the remainder undecided. Surveys conducted since the early 1990’s across the country near existing wind farms have consistently found that most people are in favour of wind energy , with support increasing among those living closer to the wind farms.
11. Myth: Wind farms negatively affect tourism
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest this. The UK’s first commercial wind farm at Delabole received 350,000 visitors in its first ten years of operation, while 10,000 visitors a year come to take the turbine tour at the EcoTech Centre in Swaffham, Norfolk. A MORI poll in Scotland showed that 80% of tourists would be interested in visiting a wind farm. Wind farm developers are often asked to provide visitor centres, viewing platforms and rights of way to their sites.
12. Myth: Wind farms harm property prices
Fact: There is currently no evidence showing that wind farms impact house prices. However, there is evidence following a comprehensive study by the Scottish Executive that those living nearest to wind farms are their strongest advocates.
13. Myth: Wind farms kill birds
Fact: The RSPB stated in its 2004 information leaflet Wind farms and birds, that "in the UK, we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms". Wind farms are always subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment and BWEA members follow the industry’s Best Practice Guidelines and work closely with organisations such as English Nature and the RSPB to ensure that wind farm design and layout does not interfere with sensitive species or wildlife designated sites. Moreover, a recent report published in the journal Nature confirmed that the greatest threat to bird populations in the UK is climate change.
14. Myth: Wind farms are dangerous to humans
Fact: Wind energy is a benign technology with no associated emissions, harmful pollutants or waste products. In over 25 years and with more than 140,000 machines installed around the world, no member of the public has ever been harmed by the normal operation of wind turbines. In response to recent unscientific accusations that wind turbines emit infrasound and cause associated health problems, Dr Geoff Leventhall, Consultant in Noise Vibration and Acoustics and author of the Defra Report on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects16, says: "I can state quite categorically that there is no significant infrasound from current designs of wind turbines. To say that there is an infrasound problem is one of the hares which objectors to wind farms like to run. There will not be any effects from infrasound from the turbines."
15. Myth: Wind farms are noisy
Fact: The evolution of wind farm technology over the past decade has rendered mechanical noise from turbines almost undetectable with the main sound being the aerodynamic swoosh of the blades passing the tower. There are strict guidelines on wind turbines and noise emissions to ensure the protection of residential amenity. These are contained in the scientifically informed ETSU Working Group guidelines 199617 and must be followed by wind farm developers, as referenced in national planning policy for renewables18. The best advice for any doubter is to go and hear for yourself!