Powering Change Since 1982
At the beginning of September 1982, a handful of European manufacturers of agricultural machinery flew to California to assess the market for wind energy. A few weeks later they returned with enough orders to start series production of wind turbines. Before the year was over, 25-30 turbines had been shipped and installed; the year after 350 wind turbines, with a total capacity of 20 MW, were exported. This was the start of what became known as the "California wind rush". The modern wind energy industry was born.
Whilst the manufacturers travelled to California, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) was formally launched in Stockholm. "The EWEA has been formed to bring together the very large body of people working in this technology throughout Europe," the first Chairman, Gijsbrecht "George" Piepers, wrote.
An industrial success story
In 2012, EWEA celebrated its 30th anniversary. After three decades at the helm of European wind energy policy, EWEA has grown alongside the wind industry, which is now a major player in the energy industry.
Wind turbine generators have grown from 55 kW in 1982 to 5,000 kW today, rotor diameters from 15 metres to 126 metres and global installed capacity is now 194,000 MW compared to 100 MW in 1980. In Europe, wind energy's share of power supply has increased from 0.001% to 4%, and European manufacturers continue to dominate the rapidly growing global market. Wind power is indeed one of the biggest European industrial success stories in the past quarter of a century.
Words and watts
In 1982, EWEA took on the challenge of promoting wind energy and has become the driving force behind the development of a sustainable energy supply. The road to this achievement has been long, and has required a great deal of research, learning and development, as well as a passion for the cause.
At the end of the 1970s, when the wind energy industry's magazine 'Wind Directions' was first published, it was hoped that it would become a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on wind power. When EWEA was established in September 1982, its main goals – "to raise the level of cooperation between Europe's wind power organisations and spur an international awareness of the potential of wind energy" – were set out on these pages.
During the early years of the Association's life, the wind energy industry as we know it today was still an unrealised ambition. "We had more words than megawatts", as John Twidell recalls about the first meetings. Today, we have the megawatts. In 2010, when renewables accounted for 41% of all electricity generating capacity installed in the EU, 17% alone was wind power. New EU-wide legislation has set a target of sourcing 20% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. In the electricity sector, 34% of all consumption should be met by renewables by that same year. Wind power will account for 15% to 18% of all electricity consumption by 2020.
The battle continues
At this point in time, key decisions need to be taken that will have enormous impact on our energy future. EWEA will strive to ensure that wind will be the leading technology in transforming the global energy supply structure towards a truly sustainable future, based on unlimited, nonpolluting and competitive renewable technologies.
In the 20th century the fight for energy was won by the regions and countries of the world which either hosted or controlled the depleting fuel resources. I am convinced that the battle for energy in the 21st century will be won by those countries and regions which follow a strategy of developing, deploying and exporting renewable energy technology to a world that, a few years from now, cannot afford to live without it.