Global Wind Energy Blows Away Outdated Expectations

global-wind-energyPeter Sennekamp, media officer for the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) announced this week that wind energy will surpass the threshold of 300 gigawatts, or 300,000 megawatts at some point before the end of the calendar year.  Total wind energy capacity reached 280 gigawatts by the end of last year, when a record 44 gigawatts were installed worldwide.  The graphic below, courtesy of the Earth Policy Institute and Grist, shows how quickly wind energy installations have increased, especially in the last 5 years.


China led the way in 2012, adding over 13 gigawatts of wind energy.  The added wind capacity was enough to officially surpass coal energy generation for the first time in the country’s history.  China’s 12th Five-year plan – an energy policy published in January 2012 – set goals to strongly address concerns with pollution by the end of 2015.  A 17% reduction in carbon intensity and installing enough renewable energy to comprise 11% of China’s primary energy demands from non-fossil sources were included in the plan.

Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company, also announced to emphasize wind energy in their future plans.  In late May, Tata released a statement they would add 150-200 megawatts every year moving forward as part of a long-term sustainability initiative for the country.

In addition, the Indian government is also beginning to embrace wind energy.  While the bulk of their renewable energy plans remain focused on solar power, Phase II of the Jewaharial Nehru National Solar Mission will also include the introduction of an offshore wind energy department, where research will begin this year.  Government research indicated that they accepted the new department because the cost effectiveness of pursuing offshore wind was comparable to conventional fossil fuel generation for the first time in India.

Offshore wind is nothing new.  The first turbines were installed in 1991 in Denmark.  Up until recently, however, installation costs and capacity prices have stunted their growth across the globe.  The first offshore floating wind turbine for the United States officially debuted earlier in June off the coast of Maine.  The Castine offshore wind project will be operated by the University of Maine, and it will be used to design and implement better offshore turbines in the future.

According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US has a massive potential to produce emission-free energy from wind turbines.  Based on a recent report from Navigant Research for the DOE, by 2030 over 200,000 jobs and $70 billion worth of annual investments could be produced by offshore energy with enough resources and funding.  As of now, the report shows 33 announced offshore wind projects in the US, with 9 of those being far enough ahead for installation in the next five years.  So despite America’s reluctance to embrace offshore wind, expect considerable development in the next few years.

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Kristopher Settle
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Kris can be found on Twitter and Google+.

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