Project Development, Wind Power

Wind Power Surges Around the World

A dramatic one-year gain of 5,500 MW or 31 percent in world wind power generation emerges in preliminary figures from the Earth Policy Institute.

WASHINGTON, DC (US) 2002-02-04 [SolarAccess.com] Furthermore the data show that the U.S. is leading the expansion, with an increase of nearly two thirds, or 1600 megawatts last year alone. The Institute says world wind electric generating capacity climbed from 17,800 megawatts in 2000 to an estimated 23,300 megawatts in 2001. Since 1995, world wind-generating capacity has increased an astounding 487 percent, or nearly fivefold. During the same period, the use of coal, the principal alternative for generating electricity, declined by 9 percent. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the generating capacity now in place is sufficient to meet the residential electricity needs of some 23 million people, equal to the combined population of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. In wind generating capacity, Germany leads the world with 8,000 megawatts, nearly a third of the total. The U.S., which launched its modern wind power industry in California in the early 1980s, follows with 4,150 megawatts. Spain is in third place, with 3,300 megawatts. Denmark, which is fourth with 2,500 megawatts, now gets 18 percent of its electricity from wind. Two thirds of the capacity added in 2001 was concentrated in the top three countries: Germany added 1,890 megawatts; the United States, 1,600; and Spain, 1,065. For the United States, this translates into a growth in generating capacity of some 63 percent in 2001. The Earth Policy Institute report says that despite this spectacular growth, development of the earth’s wind resources has barely begun. In densely populated Europe, there is enough easily accessible offshore wind energy to meet all of the region’s electricity needs. In the United States, there is enough harnessable wind energy in just 3 of the 50 states, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas, to satisfy the country’s electricity needs and China can easily double its current electricity generation from wind alone. As well, the Institute reports that In the U.S. the cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen from 35¢ per kilowatt-hour in the mid-1980s to 4¢ per kilowatt-hour at prime wind sites in 2001. Some recent long-term supply contracts have been signed for 3¢ per kilowatt-hour. With the U.S. adoption of a wind production tax credit in 1993 to offset established subsidies for oil, coal, and nuclear power, growth surged. New wind farms have come online in recent years in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Low-cost electricity from wind brings the option of electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen, which can easily be stored and used to fuel gas-fired turbines in backup power plants when wind power ebbs. Over time, hydrogen produced with wind-generated electricity is the leading candidate to replace natural gas in gas-fired power plants as gas reserves are depleted. Hydrogen is also the ideal fuel for the fuel cell engines that every major automobile manufacturer is now working on. Honda and DaimlerChrysler both plan to have fuel cell-powered vehicles on the market in 2003. The Institute says that wind power offers long-term price stability and energy independence. Not only are costs low and falling, but with wind-generated electricity there are no abrupt price hikes, as with natural gas. There is no OPEC for wind, because wind is widely dispersed. An inexhaustible source of energy, wind offers us more energy than we can use, and it does not disrupt climate.