In the last decade or so, wind energy was the fastest developing renewable energy sector in the world, with United States leading the way. And although US wind industry is expected to experience a slowdown in years to come, wind energy capacity will still continue to grow on global level since China plans enormous expansion of its wind power capacity. Wind energy is considered by many energy experts as the only renewable energy source which can somewhat compete in price with coal and other fossil fuels, and the price of wind power technologies (wind turbines ) is expected to continue with further decline in years to come.
Wind energy on global scale
As already said in introduction wind energy capacity is constantly growing, and at the end of 2009 worldwide installed wind power capacity was 159.2 gigawatts. Wind power currently satisfies around 2 percent of world electricity demand; though there are some really positive examples like Denmark, where wind generates around 20% of total electricity. Currently, global wind energy sector is mostly based on wind power projects on land, but in years to come offshore wind energy sector will likely become much more important than it is today, and countries like UK and China, have already started plans for large offshore wind energy expansion.
The Europe currently accounts for around 48% of total worldwide installed capacity. If we look at the situation with installed wind power capacity by country we can see that top five countries are United States, Germany, Spain, China, and India, all of which have experienced tremendous growth of their wind power capacity in the last few years. The U.S. is currently the world's leader in wind power generation capacity with the state of Texas as the undisputed nation's leader (Texas alone had around 9500 MW of installed wind power capacity at the end of 2009).
Things wind power industry will need to improve
Wind power may be the fastest developing renewable energy sector with the rather competitive prices but this doesn't mean that wind energy is a perfect energy source, as there are several things wind energy sector will need to improve in years to come.
First of all, wind energy sector despite being one of the most cost-competitive energy still cannot continue to maintain its current tremendous growth without the adequate incentives, as it is very clearly seen from the current situation in United States. This means that wind turbines will not only have to become cheaper but also more effective, and this can only be achieved with the help of science. This means that the technological development is one of the key components that will determine the future of wind power industry.
Wind doesn't blow all the time which means that wind is intermittent energy source and thus not 100% reliable. This is the reason why wind power industry is desperately looking for some cost-competitive energy storage solution which would do the trick in turning wind energy into a very reliable energy source.
Wind farms are basically a group of wind turbines one on location, which are interconnected, and are used for the production of electricity. Wind farms have already a 30-years old history with the first wind farm being installed in southern New Hampshire in December, 1980. At this point, the largest wind farm in the world is Roscoe wind farm in Texas, with a capacity of around 780 MW.
Wind farms are not economically viable renewable energy solution in all parts of the world. There are two main factors that determine the economy of wind farms, the frequency and the speed of the wind. These two factors are also the main reason why many energy experts believe that the future of wind energy lies offshore, because of frequent and extremely powerful winds that blow offshore. Of course due to extreme weather conditions offshore wind energy projects need to be built more powerfully which significantly increases construction costs compared to projects on land.
Environmental effects of wind energy
Wind energy is environmentally friendly energy source which doesn't contribute to climate change. However this does not mean that wind energy is perfect from environmental point of view because large wind turbines can cause noise pollution, they can also (if not equipped with radar) kill large number of birds, and could deteriorate the visual impact of certain environment. Still, using wind energy instead of fossil fuels would significantly improve the health of our environment, and could be also used as one of the best solutions to tackle climate change.
Wind energy is currently the most popular renewable energy source in the world, with new wind energy projects booming across the globe. The U.S. is current leader in installed wind capacity but in years to come China looks likely to overtake United States. China is also the world's largest wind turbine manufactures, and both U.S. as well as EU will have to step up a gear if they want to compete with China.
Wind power industry will likely continue its growth in years to come, and if everything goes as expected wind power should satisfy more than 20% of world's electricity by the end of this century. There are still some issues like efficiency and intermittency which wind power industry will have to resolve in years to come but nonetheless wind power industry should already look forward to a very bright future.