In 2018, global wind power capacity grew 9.6% to 591 GW and yearly wind energy production grew 10%, reaching 4.8% of worldwide electric power usage, and providing 14% of the electricity in the European Union. Wind power or wind energy is the use of wind to provide the mechanical power through wind turbines to turn electric generators and traditionally to do other work, like milling or pumping. Wind power is a sustainable and renewable energy, and has a much smaller impact on the environment compared to burning fossil fuels.
Global map of wind speed at 100 m above surface level.
Wind farm consist of many individual wind turbines, which are connected to the electric power transmission network. Onshore wind power is an inexpensive source of electric power, competitive with or in many places cheaper than coal or gas plants.
Onshore wind farms also have an impact on the landscape, as typically they need to be spread over more land than other power stations and need to be built in wild and rural areas, which can lead to “industrialization of the countryside” and habitat loss.
Offshore wind power is steadier and stronger than on land and offshore farms have less visual impact, but construction and maintenance costs are higher. Small onshore wind farms can feed some energy into the grid or provide electric power to isolated off-grid locations.
Wind is an intermittent energy source, which cannot make electricity nor be dispatched on demand. It also gives variable power, which is consistent from year to year but varies greatly over shorter time scales. Therefore, it must be used together with other electric power sources or storage to give a reliable supply. As the proportion of wind power in a region increases, more power sources are needed to back it up (such as concentrated solar power), and the grid may need to be upgraded. Power-management techniques such as having dispatchable power sources, enough hydroelectric power, excess capacity, geographically distributed wind turbines, exporting and importing power to neighboring areas, energy storage, or reducing demand when wind production is low, can in many cases overcome these problems.
Weather forecasting permits the electric-power network to be readied for the predictable variations in production that occur.
Denmark is the country with the highest penetration of wind power, with 43.4% of its consumed electricity from wind in 2017. At least 83 other countries are using wind power to supply their electric power grids.