Similar to hydropower, energy derived from water, wind energy has been utilized for thousands of years, merely with less advanced technologies than modern inventions. From the Nile River to China, the Middle East, America and Europe, wind as a source of energy was seized until oil and energy prices dropped. It was not until the 1970´s oil crisis that alternative sources of energy, such as wind, started to awaken new interest worldwide. Today, wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity worldwide, and, it is a fossil-free, renewable source of energy. (Wind Energy Foundation 2017).
Worldwide, current wind power capacity with a total of 435 GW (one gigawatt equals one billion watts) covers seven per cent (7%) of total power generation capacity, while its actual total global power generation covered four per cent (4%) in 2015. The leading wind power producing country worldwide today is the United States, followed by China, Germany, Spain, India, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, and Denmark. Total installed capacity by world region is largest in Asia (180 GW), followed by East Asia (149 GW), Europe (148 GW), North America (86.9 GW), South & Central Asia (25.6 GW), Latin America & The Caribbean (12.3 GW), South East Asia & Pacific (5.61 GW), Middle East & North Africa (1.9 GW), and finally, Africa (1.48 GW). (IRENA 2016; World Energy Council 2016).
According to the World Energy Council, current policy plans could allow for wind power capacity to grow from 435 GW in 2015 (roughly 487 GW in 2016) to 977 GW by 2030. In China alone, wind power could provide 26% of all electricity by 2030. With the vast majority of wind power turbines onshore, worldwide investments in the sector are booming and hit USD 109.6 billion in 2015. In many countries today, onshore wind is the most inexpensive source of renewable energy, with costs falling rapidly and significantly. With a rapid and credible growth track record, the wind power industry is regarded as a low-risk investment, with financial institutions increasingly much competing about the funding of wind projects. Possible risks to wind project investments include policy uncertainty and long operational lifetimes. (Global Wind Energy Council 2016; World Energy Council 2016).
Both IRENA, GWEC, and the World Energy Council admit that there are multiple benefits from a growing renewable energy, including wind power, sector. Not only do renewable energy sources support socio-economic growth through the generation of new jobs leading to economic growth, but also supports the decarbonization of the global energy sector, thus leading to less pollution and improved environmental and human well-being. Investments and growth in the renewable energy sector are estimated to create millions of new jobs worldwide. (Global Wind Energy Council 2016; IRENA 2016; World Energy Council 2016).
As defined by the World Energy Council and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power is leading the energy market in its transition away from fossil fuels on both performance, reliability and costs. Despite of some of its harms on the environment and ecological impacts, such as wildlife colliding with wind turbines and possible public health concerns through noise and visual impacts on people, wind power is known to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy, with a small land footprint, low water requirements and low greenhouse gas emissions. (World Energy Council 2016; GWEC 2016).
Learn more by watching U.S. Department of Energy´s video “Energy 101: Wind Turbines”:
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