Waking The Sleeping Giant of Wind Power

Wind power was the largest contributor of new power capacity contracted at two recent power auctions in Brazil, according to GWEC.

Of 3.9 GW of contracted projects, 1,922 MW went to wind power developers. Not only were the overall prices considerably lower than in previous auctions, wind projects apparently succeeded in undercutting generation costs for projects based on natural gas. These new contracts bring Brazil’s pipeline for wind farms under construction up to more than 5 GW, the trade group says, in addition to the more than 1 GW already in operation.

Such developments inevitably attract headlines, particularly given increasing interest in the Brazilian and wider Latin American renewable energy markets. And, in Brazil as with many other nations, this push towards a low-carbon energy complex is supported by aggressive policy measures, which will look at in a feature in this issue.

But, behind the headlines, the success or otherwise of the wind energy market largely stands on the cost of energy produced. As the market becomes more mature this is a trend which is expected to become more prevalent as subsidies and support schemes ultimately diminish.

Keeping competitive rests on the ability to produce energy at the lowest costs, and this is more and more a function of keeping wind turbines operating for as much of the time as possible. As the headline reliability issues of previous generations of turbine are resolved –through experience, more advanced designs and materials and so on – major components such as drivetrains, generators and blades are less likely to fail.

But that does not necessarily equate to a more reliable and robust wind turbine. There are countless critical components within these machines, the failure of which can halt operations. Consequently, more attention is being focused on improving the reliability of these subsystem components. As important as it is, though, it’s not just component reliability that contributes to the long-term cost of energy. Two crucial influences are the cost of manufacture and the role of supply chain management.

Commenting on this latest power auction Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary general, said: ‘Brazil is a sleeping giant in terms of wind power, but it is waking up’. The same could be said for wind technology too.

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