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EWEA's Opinion

Wind power in 2010: On the rise

02.01.2010

Predicting what might happen a week or a month or a year from now is an uneasy art that a later historical review will reveal is wrong as often as it is right.

Still, during the earliest moments of this very new year in a very new decade, much can be gained by connecting seemingly unrelated jigsaw-like pieces of information that taken together form a bigger, more complete picture.

That is especially true of the continued rise of wind power which increasingly finds itself at the epicenter of humankind’s most complex and important conundrum: how to lead the charge towards a necessary transformative green energy revolution that replaces lethal, polluting, expensive fossil fuels with clean electricity generated by harnessing Earth’s abundant, ever-flowing breezes.

One of the key jigsaw pieces in 2010 that wind power is related to involves international negotiators finally brokering a legally binding agreement on limiting greenhouse gasses so that the destructive emissions peak by 2015 and then rapidly decrease, allowing global temperature rise caused by oil and coal to be kept to a somewhat manageable 2°C increase.

A vast knowledge of peer-reviewed scientific evidence tell us that such an agreement, which would strengthen the Kyoto Protocol that lapses at the end of 2012, is vitally important if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences associated with unchecked global warming. It is perhaps ironic to note that while last December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen failed to come up with a binding agreement on limiting greenhouse gasses, symbols of the emissions-free wind power success story — a large turbine erected onsite that endlessly created  electricity, an impressively massive rotor blade on display, photographs of wind farms onshore and off — dominated the event.

As the year plays out, nation states will have to realize that agreeing to a binding climate change agreement is a more daunting challenge than all other problems facing society today. Before the US, the world’s number one economy, can play a pivotal role in fighting global warming, its Senate must pass domestic climate change legislation so that President Barack Obama can sign an international agreement, perhaps later in the year in Mexico. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, must understand that there is a huge environmental cost to nurturing its rapidly developing economy with deadly coal-fired energy plants. If the European Union wants to retain its so-called climate change leadership role, it must do more to prove to the US, China and the rest of the world that policies and technologies — which include wind power — to fight global warming already exist. Perhaps the most important thing for the EU to do is work even harder at galvanizing the necessary political will, both at home in the 27-member trading bloc and around the world, to stop runway climate change now, before it is too late.

Europe’s position on global warming, energy policy and wind power and other renewables is expected to be defined and articulated this year by Gunther Oettinger, as Energy Commissioner, and Connie Hedegaard, who will take on the new climate change portfolio. It will help the EU that both Oettinger and Hedegaard are already well aware of the vast and many benefits associated with wind power production.

While the onshore wind sector will keep developing a steady, dependable and financially successful upward trend in 2010, the still fledgling offshore sector will continue attracting supporters who realize the awesome potential of harnessing Europe’s largest indigenous source of energy.

One of those admirers is the consulting firm Emerging Energy Research which in December published a report saying that the offshore sector is now one of the largest opportunities for growth in the global wind industry.

The global offshore wind market, expected to install nearly 43 GW by 2020, has recently accumulated turbine orders exceeding 6 GW, covering demand through 2013,” said the consulting firm, which The New York Times noted has predicted that the $10 billion offshore sector will surge to $30 billion in the next decade. “Europe is set to lead global offshore expansion with around 76% of global offshore wind installed between 2009 and 2020,” the consulting firm added.

Indeed, European wind power will continue to succeed as improvements to the somewhat antiquated onshore grid system are carried out and a dedicated offshore grid is established to effectively channel the huge surges of green power created in the ocean far away from coastlines.

Finally, the annual European Wind Energy Conference, to be held this year in Warsaw in April, will provide the wind power industry another opportunity to show why it has become so successful at generating increasing amounts of green electricity and providing tens of thousands of well-paying jobs while also sparking a rise in research and development.

Simply put, wind power’s muscular growth will continue to escalate in 2010 because it is a proven technology that is rapidly deployable. Private businesses, governments and environmentalists not only understand that remarkably positive message, they are responding to it enthusiastically.

By Chris Rose, EWEA




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