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Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. At the end of 2007, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 94.1 gigawatts.[1] Although wind produces only about 1% of world-wide electricity use,[2] it is growing rapidly, increasing more than fivefold globally between 2000 and 2007.[1] In several countries it has achieved relatively high levels of penetration, accounting for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 9% in Spain and Portugal, and 6% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland in 2007.

Wind energy has historically been used directly to propel sailing ships or converted into mechanical energy for pumping water or grinding grain, but the principal application of wind power today is the generation of electricity. Large scale wind farms are typically connected to the local electric power transmission network, with smaller turbines being used to provide electricity to isolated locations. Utility companies increasingly buy back surplus electricity produced by small domestic turbines. Wind energy as a power source is favoured by many environmentalists as an alternative to fossil fuels, as it is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and produces lower greenhouse gas emissions, although the construction of wind farms is not universally welcomed due to their visual impact and other effects on the environment. The intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when using wind power to supply a low proportion of total demand. Where wind is to be used for a moderate fraction of demand, additional costs for compensation of intermittency are considered to be modest.[3]

History Edit

Main article: History of wind power

Humans have been using wind power for at least 5,500 years to propel sailboats and sailing ships, and architects have used wind-driven natural ventilation in buildings since similarly ancient times. The use of wind to provide mechanical power came somewhat later in antiquity.

The Babylonian emperor Hammurabi planned to use wind power for his ambitious irrigation project in the 17th century BC.[4] An early historical reference to a rudimentary windmill was used to power an organ in the 1st century AD.[5] The first practical windmills were later built in Sistan, Afghanistan, from the 7th century. These were vertical-axle windmills, which had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades.[6] Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and were used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries.[7] Horizontal-axle windmills were later used extensively in Northwestern Europe to grind flour beginning in the 1180s, and many Dutch windmills still exist.[8]

In the United States, the development of the "water-pumping windmill" was the major factor in allowing the farming and ranching of vast areas of North America, which were otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. They contributed to the expansion of rail transport systems throughout the world, by pumping water from wells to supply the needs of the steam locomotives of those early times.[9] The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America.

The American Charles F. Brush is often credited with being the first person to produce electricity using a wind powerd machine, however, Brush first used his wind turbine during the winter of 1887, and in July of that year, a Scottish academic, Professor James Blyth, had been undertaking similar experiments which culminated in a UK patent in 1891.[10] Blyth's 33 foot high, cloth-sailed wind turbine was installed in the garden of his holiday cottage at Marykirk in Scotland and was used to charge accumulators developed by the Frenchman Camille Alphonse Faure, to power the lighting in the cottage,[10] thus making it the first house in the world to have its electricity supplied by wind power.[11] Blyth offered the surplus electricity to the people of Marykirk for lighting the main street, however, they turned down the offer as they thought electricity was "the work of the devil."[10] Although he later built a wind machine to supply emergency power to the local Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary of Montrose the invention never really caught on as the technology was not considered to be economically viable.[10]

In the 1890's a Dane, Poul la Cour, constructed wind turbines to generate electricity, which was then used to produce hydrogen.[10]

The first modern wind turbines were built in the early 1980s, although more efficient designs are still being developed.

Wind energy Edit

For more details on this topic, see Wind.
File:Lee Ranch Wind Speed Frequency.png

The Earth is unevenly heated by the sun resulting in the poles receiving less energy from the sun than the equator does. Also, the dry land heats up (and cools down) more quickly than the seas do. The differential heating drives a global atmospheric convection system reaching from the Earth's surface to the stratosphere which acts as a virtual ceiling. Most of the energy stored in these wind movements can be found at high altitudes where continuous wind speeds of over 160 km/h (100 mph) occur. Eventually, the wind energy is converted through friction into diffuse heat throughout the Earth's surface and the atmosphere.

The total amount of economically extractable power available from the wind is considerably more than present human power use from all sources.[12] An estimated 72 TW of wind power on the Earth potentially can be commercially viable,[13] compared to about 15 TW average global power consumption from all sources in 2005. Not all the energy of the wind flowing past a given point can be recovered (see Betz' law).

Distribution of wind speed Edit

The strength of wind varies, and an average value for a given location does not alone indicate the amount of energy a wind turbine could produce there. To assess the frequency of wind speeds at a particular location, a probability distribution function is often fit to the observed data. Different locations will have different wind speed distributions. The Rayleigh model closely mirrors the actual distribution of hourly wind speeds at many locations.

Because so much power is generated by higher windspeed, much of the energy comes in short bursts. The 2002 Lee Ranch sample is telling;[14] half of the energy available arrived in just 15% of the operating time. The consequence is that wind energy from a particular turbine or wind farm does not have as consistent an output as fuel-fired power plants; utilities that use wind power provide power from starting existing generation for times when the wind is weak thus wind power is primarily a fuel saver rather than a capacity saver. Making wind power more consistent requires that various existing technologies and methods be extended in particular the use of stronger inter regional transmission to link widely distributed wind farms since the average variability is much less; the use of hydro storage and demand-side energy management.[15]

Electricity Generation Edit

Grid management system Edit

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Electricity generated by a wind farm is normally fed into the national electric power transmission network. Individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage (usually 34.5 kV) power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium-voltage electrical current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage transmission system. The surplus power produced by domestic microgenerators can, in some jurisdictions, be fed back into the network and sold back to the utility company, producing a retail credit for the consumer to offset their energy costs.[16][17]

Induction generators, often used for wind power projects, require reactive power for excitation, so substations used in wind-power collection systems include substantial capacitor banks for power factor correction. Different types of wind turbine generators behave differently during transmission grid disturbances, so extensive modelling of the dynamic electromechanical characteristics of a new wind farm is required by transmission system operators to ensure predictable stable behaviour during system faults (see: Low voltage ride through). In particular, induction generators cannot support the system voltage during faults, unlike steam or hydro turbine-driven synchronous generators (however properly matched power factor correction capacitors along with electronic control of resonance can support induction generation without grid). Doubly-fed machines, or wind turbines with solid-state converters between the turbine generator and the collector system, have generally more desirable properties for grid interconnection. Transmission systems operators will supply a wind farm developer with a grid code to specify the requirements for interconnection to the transmission grid. This will include power factor, constancy of frequency and dynamic behaviour of the wind farm turbines during a system fault.[18][19]

Capacity factor Edit

File:WorldWindPower2008.png

Since wind speed is not constant, a wind farm's annual energy production is never as much as the sum of the generator nameplate ratings multiplied by the total hours in a year. The ratio of actual productivity in a year to this theoretical maximum is called the capacity factor. Typical capacity factors are 20-40%, with values at the upper end of the range in particularly favourable sites.[20][21] For example, a 1 megawatt turbine with a capacity factor of 35% will not produce 8,760 megawatt-hours in a year (1x24x365), but only 0.35x24x365 = 3,066 MWh, averaging to 0.35 MW. Online data is available for some locations and the capacity factor can be calculated from the yearly output.[22][23]

Unlike fueled generating plants, the capacity factor is limited by the inherent properties of wind. Capacity factors of other types of power plant are based mostly on fuel cost, with a small amount of downtime for maintenance. Nuclear plants have low incremental fuel cost, and so are run at full output and achieve a 90% capacity factor.[24] Plants with higher fuel cost are throttled back to follow load. Gas turbine plants using natural gas as fuel may be very expensive to operate and may be run only to meet peak power demand. A gas turbine plant may have an annual capacity factor of 5-25% due to relatively high energy production cost.

According to a 2007 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, interconnecting ten or more wind farms allows 33 to 47% of the total energy produced to be used as reliable, baseload electric power, as long as minimum criteria are met for wind speed and turbine height.[25][26]

Intermittency and penetration limits Edit

Main article: Intermittent Power Sources
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Electricity generated from wind power can be highly variable at several different timescales: from hour to hour, daily, and seasonally. Annual variation also exists, but is not as significant. Because instantaneous electrical generation and consumption must remain in balance to maintain grid stability, this variability can present substantial challenges to incorporating large amounts of wind power into a grid system. Intermittency and the non-dispatchable nature of wind energy production can raise costs for regulation, incremental operating reserve, and (at high penetration levels) could require an increase in the already existing energy demand management, load shedding, or storage solutions or system interconnection with HVDC cables. At low levels of wind penetration, fluctuations in load and allowance for failure of large generating units requires reserve capacity that can also regulate for variability of wind generation.

A series of detailed modelling studies which looked at the Europe wide adoption of renewable energy and interlinking power grids using HVDC cables, indicates that the entire power usage could come from renewables, with 70% total energy from wind at the same sort of costs or lower than at present. Intermittency would be dealt with, according to this model, by a combination of geographic dispersion to de-link weather system effects, and the ability of HVDC to shift power from windy areas to non-windy areas.[27][28]

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity or other forms of grid energy storage can store energy developed by high-wind periods and release it when needed.[29] Stored energy increases the economic value of wind energy since it can be shifted to displace higher cost generation during peak demand periods. The potential revenue from this arbitrage can offset the cost and losses of storage; the cost of storage may add 25% to the cost of any wind energy stored, but it is not envisaged that this would apply to a large proportion of wind energy generated. Thus the 2 GW Dinorwig pumped storage plant adds costs to nuclear energy in the UK for which it was built, but not to all the power produced from the 30 or so GW of nuclear plants in the UK.

In particular geographic regions, peak wind speeds may not coincide with peak demand for electrical power. In California and Texas, for example, hot days in summer may have low wind speed and high electrical demand due to air conditioning. Some utilities subsidize the purchase of geothermal heat pumps by their customers, to reduce electricity demand during the summer months by making air conditioning up to 70% more efficient;[30] widespread adoption of this technology would better match electricity demand to wind availability in areas with hot summers and low summer winds. Geothermal heat pumps also allow renewable electricity from wind to displace natural gas and heating oil for central heating during winter, when winds tend to be stronger in many areas. Another option is to interconnect widely dispersed geographic areas with a relatively cheap and efficient HVDC "SuperGrid". In the USA it is estimated that to upgrade the transmission system to take in planned or potential renewables would cost at least $60 billion[31]. Total annual US power consumption in 2006 was 4 thousand billion kilowatt hours. [32] Over an asset life of 40 years and low cost utility investment grade funding, the cost of $60 billion investment would be about 5% p.a. ie $3 billion p.a. Dividing by total power used gives an increased unit cost of around $3,000,000,000 x 100 / 4,000 x 1 exp9 = 0.075 cent / kWh.

According to a 2007 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, interconnecting ten or more wind farms allows 33 to 47% of the total energy produced to be used as reliable, baseload electric power, as long as minimum criteria are met for wind speed and turbine height.[25][26]

In the UK, demand for electricity is higher in winter than in summer, and so are wind speeds.[33][34][35] Solar power tends to be complementary to wind.[36][37] On daily to weekly timescales, high pressure areas tend to bring clear skies and low surface winds, whereas low pressure areas tend to be windier and cloudier. On seasonal timescales, solar energy typically peaks in summer, whereas in many areas wind energy is lower in summer and higher in winter. Thus the intermittencies of wind and solar power tend to cancel each other somewhat. A demonstration project at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy shows the effect.[38] The Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology of the University of Kassel pilot-tested a combined power plant linking solar, wind, biogas and hydrostorage to provide load-following power around the clock, entirely from renewable sources.[39]

A report from Denmark noted that their wind power network was without power for 54 days during 2002.[40] Wind power advocates argue that these periods of low wind can be dealt with by simply restarting existing power stations that have been held in readiness or interlinking with HVDC.[27] The cost of keeping a power station idle is in fact quite low, since the main cost of running a power station is the fuel (see spark spread and dark spread).Template:Fact

Penetration Edit

Wind energy "penetration" refers to the fraction of energy produced by wind compared with the total available generation capacity. There is no generally accepted "maximum" level of wind penetration. The limit for a particular grid will depend on the existing generating plants, pricing mechanisms, capacity for storage or demand management, and other factors. An interconnected electricity grid will already include reserve generating and transmission capacity to allow for equipment failures; this reserve capacity can also serve to regulate for the varying power generation by wind plants. Studies have indicated that 20% of the total electrical energy consumption may be incorporated with minimal difficulty.[41] These studies have been for locations with geographically dispersed wind farms, some degree of dispatchable energy, or hydropower with storage capacity, demand management, and interconnection to a large grid area export of electricity when needed. Beyond this level, there are few technical limits, but the economic implications become more significant.

However In evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee, the UK System Operator, National Grid have quoted estimates of balancing costs for 40% wind and these lie in the range £500-1000M per annum. "These balancing costs represent an additional £6 to £12 per annum on average consumer electricity bill of around £390."[42]

At present, few grid systems have penetration of wind energy above 5%: Denmark (values over 18%), Spain and Portugal (values over 9%), Germany and the Republic of Ireland (values over 6%). The Danish grid is heavily interconnected to the European electrical grid, and it has solved grid management problems by exporting almost half of its wind power to Norway. The correlation between electricity export and wind power production is very strong.[43]

Denmark has active plans to increase the percentage of power generated to over 50%.[44]

A study commissioned by the state of Minnesota considered penetration of up to 25%, and concluded that integration issues would be manageable and have incremental costs of less than one-half cent ($0.0045) per kWh.[45]

ESB National Grid, Ireland's electric utility, in a 2004 study that, concluded that to meet the renewable energy targets set by the EU in 2001 would "increase electricity generation costs by a modest 15%"[46]

A recent report by Sinclair Merz[47] saw no difficulty in accommodating 50% of total power delivered in the UK at modest cost increases.

Predictability Edit

Main article: Wind Power Forecasting

Related to variability is the short-term (hourly or daily) predictability of wind plant output. Like other electricity sources, wind energy must be "scheduled". The nature of this energy source makes it inherently variable. Wind power forecasting methods are used, but predictability of wind plant output remains low for short-term operation.

Turbine placement Edit

Main article: Wind farm

Good selection of a wind turbine site is critical to economic development of wind power. Aside from the availability of wind itself, other factors include the availability of transmission lines, value of energy to be produced, cost of land acquisition, land use considerations, and environmental impact of construction and operations. Off-shore locations may offset their higher construction cost with higher annual load factors, thereby reducing cost of energy produced. Wind farm designers use specialized wind energy software applications to evaluate the impact of these issues on a given wind farm design.

Studies in the UK have shown that if onshore turbines are placed in a straight line then an increased risk of aerodynamic modulation can occur which can result in noise nuisance to nearby residents.

Offshore wind farms Edit

File:Windmills D1-D4 - Thornton Bank.jpg
Main article: List of offshore wind farms

Template:As of, Europe leads the world in development of offshore wind power, due to strong wind resources and shallow water in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and limitations on suitable locations on land due to dense populations and existing developments. Denmark installed the first offshore wind farms, and for years was the world leader in offshore wind power until the United Kingdom gained the lead in October, 2008 with 590 MW of nameplate capacity installed.[48] The United Kingdom planned to build much more extensive offshore wind farms by 2020.[49] Other large markets for wind power, including the United States and China focused first on developing their on-land wind resources where construction costs are lower (such as in the Great Plains of the U.S., and the similarly wind-swept steppes of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia in China), but population centers along coastlines in many parts of the world are close to offshore wind resources, which would reduce transmission costs.

On 21 December 2007, Q7 (later renamed as Princess Amalia Wind Farm) exported first power to the Dutch grid, which was a milestone for the offshore wind industry. The 120MW offshore wind farm with a construction budget of €383 million was the first to be financed by a nonrecourse loan (project finance). The project comprises 60 Vestas V80-2MW wind turbines. Each turbine's tower rests on a monopile foundation to a depth of between 18-23 meters at a distance of about 23 km off the Dutch coast.

Transporting large wind turbine components (tower sections, nacelles, and blades) is much easier over water than on land, because ships and barges can handle large loads more easily than trucks/lorries or trains. On land, large goods vehicles must negotiate bends on roadways, which fixes the maximum length of a wind turbine blade that can move from point to point on the road network; no such limitation exists for transport on open water. Construction and maintenance costs per wind turbine are higher for offshore wind farms, motivating operators to reduce the number of wind turbines for a given total power by installing the largest available units. An example is Belgium's Thorntonbank Wind Farm with construction underway in 2008, featuring 5MW wind turbines from REpower, which were among the largest wind turbines in the world at the time.

Utilization of wind power Edit

Template:Further

Also see Installed wind power capacity for prior years

Installed windpower capacity (MW)[50][51][52]
Rank Nation 2005 2006 2007
1 Germany 18,415 20,622 22,247
2 United States 9,149 11,603 16,818
3 Spain 10,028 11,615 15,145
4 India 4,430 6,270 8,000
5 China 1,260 2,604 6,050
6 Denmark (& Faeroe Islands) 3,136 3,140 3,129
7 Italy 1,718 2,123 2,726
8 France 757 1,567 2,454
9 United Kingdom 1,332 1,963 2,389
10 Portugal 1,022 1,716 2,150
11 Canada 683 1,459 1,856
12 Netherlands 1,219 1,560 1,747
13 Japan 1,061 1,394 1,538
14 Austria 819 965 982
15 Greece 573 746 871
16 Australia 708 817 824
17 Ireland 496 745 805
18 Sweden 510 572 788
19 Norway 267 314 333
20 New Zealand 169 171 322
21 Egypt 145 230 310
22 Belgium 167 193 287
23 Taiwan 104 188 282
24 Poland 83 153 276
25 Brazil 29 237 247
26 South Korea 98 173 191
27 Turkey 20 51 146
28 Czech Republic 28 50 116
29 Morocco 64 124 114
30 Finland 82 86 110
31 Ukraine 77 86 89
32 Mexico 3 88 87
33 Costa Rica 71 74 74
34 Bulgaria 6 36 70
35 Iran 23 48 66
36 Hungary 18 61 65
Rest of Europe 129 163
Rest of Americas 109 109
Rest of Asia 38 38
Rest of Africa & Middle East 31 31
Rest of Oceania 12 12
World total (MW) 59,091 74,223 93,849
Annual Wind Power Generation (TWh) / Total electricity consumption(TWh)[53][54][55][56]
Rank Nation 2005 2006 2007
Wind Power% Total Power Wind Power% Total Power Wind Power% Total Power
1 Germany 27.2255.1 533.700 30.7005.4 569.943 39.5006.8 584.939[57]
2 United States 4049.8 26.3[58]0.6 4104.96732.14[59] 0.77 4179.908
3 Spain 23.1669.1 254.90 29.77710.1 294.596 29.4[60]9.7 303.758
4 India 679.2 726.714.7 1.9 774.7
5 China 2474.7 2.700.1 2834.4 5.6[61]0.172 3255.9
6 Italy 2.34 0.71 330.4 2.960.9 337.5 4.03[62]1.186 339.9
7 Denmark (& Faeroe Islands) 6.61419.3 34.307.432 16.8 44.24 37.276
8 France 547.8 2.3230.4 550.063 545.289
9 United Kingdom 0.9730.2 407.365 383.898 379.756
10 Portugal 35.0 4.749.7 48.876
World total (TWh) 15,746.54[63] 16,790[64]

The modern wind power industry began in 1979 with the serial production of wind turbines by Danish manufacturers Kuriant, Vestas, Nordtank, and Bonus. These early turbines were small by today's standards, with capacities of 20 to 30 kW each. Since then, they have increased greatly in size, while wind turbine production has expanded to many countries all over the world.

There are now many thousands of wind turbines operating, with a total capacity of 73,904 MW of which wind power in Europe accounts for 65% (2006). Wind power is the fastest growing energy source.[65] World wind generation capacity more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006. 81% of wind power installations are in the US and Europe, but the share of the top five countries in terms of new installations fell from 71% in 2004 to 62% in 2006. In 2007, the countries with the highest total installed capacity were Germany, the United States, Spain, India, and China (see chart).

By 2010, the World Wind Energy Association expects 160GW of capacity to be installed worldwide,[66] up from 73.9 GW at the end of 2006, implying an anticipated net growth rate of more than 21% per year.

Denmark generates nearly one-fifth of its electricity with wind turbines -- the highest percentage of any country -- and is fifth in the world in total wind power generation. Denmark is prominent in the manufacturing and use of wind turbines, with a commitment made in the 1970s to eventually produce half of the country's power by wind.

In recent years, the United States has added more wind energy to its grid than any other country; U.S. wind power capacity grew by 45% to 16.8 gigawatts in 2007.[67] By mid-2008, U.S. wind power installed nameplate capacity was still second behind Germany's, but the U.S. became the world's largest wind power producer by having better average winds over its wind farms, and thus a higher average capacity factor.[68][69] Texas has recently surpassed California's installed capacity developed or under construction. In 2007, the state expects to add 2 gigawatts to its existing capacity of approximately 4.5 gigawatts. Iowa and Minnesota are expected to each produce 1 gigawatt by late-2007.[70] Wind power generation in the U.S. was up 31.8% in February, 2007 from February, 2006.[71] The average output of one megawatt of wind power is equivalent to the average electricity consumption of about 250 American households. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind will generate enough electricity in 2008 to power just over 1% (4.5 million households) of total electricity in U.S., up from less than 0.1% in 1999. U.S. Department of Energy studies have concluded wind harvested in the Great Plains states of Texas, Kansas, and North Dakota could provide enough electricity to power the entire nation, and that offshore wind farms could do the same job.[72][73] In addition, the wind resource over and around the Great Lakes, recoverable with currently available technology, could by itself provide 80% as much power as the U.S. and Canada currently generate from non-renewable resources,[74] with Michigan's share alone equating to one third of current U.S. electricity demand.[75]

India ranks 4th in the world with a total wind power capacity of 8,000 MW in 2007, or 3% of all electricity produced in India. The World Wind Energy Conference in New Delhi in November 2006 has given additional impetus to the Indian wind industry.[66] Muppandal village in Tamil Nadu state, India, has several wind turbine farms in its vicinity, and is one of the major wind energy harnessing centres in India led by majors like Suzlon, Vestas, Micon among others.[76][77]

In 2005, China announced it would build a 1000-megawatt wind farm in Hebei for completion in 2020. China reportedly has set a generating target of 20,000 MW by 2020 from renewable energy sources — it says indigenous wind power could generate up to 253,000 MW. Following the World Wind Energy Conference in November 2004, organised by the Chinese and the World Wind Energy Association, a Chinese renewable energy law was adopted. In late 2005, the Chinese government increased the official wind energy target for the year 2020 from 20 GW to 30 GW.[78] By 2008, wind power was growing faster in China than the government had planned, and indeed faster in percentage terms than in any other large country, having more than doubled each year since 2005. Policymakers doubled their wind power prediction for 2010, after the wind industry reached the original goal of 5 GW three years ahead of schedule.[79] Current trends suggest an actual installed capacity near 20 GW by 2010, with China shortly thereafter pursuing the United States for the world wind power lead.[79]

Mexico recently opened La Venta II wind power project as an important step in reducing Mexico's consumption of fossil fuels. The 88 MW project is the first of its kind in Mexico, and will provide 13 percent of the electricity needs of the state of Oaxaca. By 2012 the project will have a capacity of 3500 MW.

Another growing market is Brazil, with a wind potential of 143 GW.[80] The federal government has created an incentive program, called Proinfa,[81] to build production capacity of 3300 MW of renewable energy for 2008, of which 1422 MW through wind energy. The program seeks to produce 10% of Brazilian electricity through renewable sources.

South Africa has a proposed station situated on the West Coast north of the Olifants River mouth near the town of Koekenaap, east of Vredendal in the Western Cape province. The station is proposed to have a total output of 100MW although there are negotiations to double this capacity. The plant could be operational by 2010.

France has announced a target of 12,500 MW installed by 2010.

Canada experienced rapid growth of wind capacity between 2000 and 2006, with total installed capacity increasing from 137 MW to 1,451 MW, and showing an annual growth rate of 38%.[82] Particularly rapid growth was seen in 2006, with total capacity doubling from the 684 MW at end-2005.[83] This growth was fed by measures including installation targets, economic incentives and political support. For example, the Ontario government announced that it will introduce a feed-in tariff for wind power, referred to as 'Standard Offer Contracts', which may boost the wind industry across the province.[84] In Quebec, the provincially-owned electric utility plans to purchase an additional 2000 MW by 2013.[85]

Small scale wind power Edit

Template:Splitsection Template:See

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Small scale wind power is the name given to wind generation systems with the capacity to produce 50 kW or less of electrical power. [86]. Isolated communities, that otherwise rely on diesel generators, may use wind turbines to displace diesel fuel consumption. Individuals may purchase these systems to reduce or eliminate their dependence on grid electricity for economic or reasons, or to reduce their carbon footprint. Wind turbines have been used for household electricity generation in conjunction with battery storage over many decades in remote areas. Increasingly, U.S. consumers are choosing to purchase grid-connected turbines in the 1 to 10 kilowatt range to power their whole homes.Template:Fact Household generator units of more than 1 kW are now functioning in several countries, and in every state in the U.S.Template:Fact Grid-connected wind turbines may use grid energy storage, displacing purchased energy with local production when available. Off-grid system users can either adapt to intermittent power or use batteries, photovoltaic or diesel systems to supplement the wind turbine. In urban locations, where it is difficult to obtain predictable or large amounts of wind energy (little is known about the actual wind resource of towns and cities [87]), smaller systems may still be used to run low power equipment. Equipment such as parking meters or wireless internet gateways may be powered by a wind turbine that charges a small battery, replacing the need for a connection to the power grid, making the potential carbon savings of small wind turbines difficult to determine.

A new Carbon Trust study into the potential of small-scale wind energy has found that small wind turbines could provide up to 1.5 Terawatt Hours (TWh) per year of electricity (0.4% of total UK electricity consumption) and 0.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) emission savings. This is based on 10% of households installing turbines at costs competitive with grid electricity, which is currently around 12p per kWh [88].

Distributed generation from renewable resources is expected grow as a consequence of the increased awareness of climate change. The electronic interfaces required to connect renewable generation units with the utility system can be designed with additional functions such as active filtering which will allow surplus power to be fed back to the grid. [89]

Economics and feasibility Edit

File:EnerconE70-Magedeburg 2005-Steinkopfinsel01.jpg

Growth and cost trends Edit

Wind and hydroelectric power generation have negligible fuel costs and relatively low maintenance costs; in economic terms, wind power has a low marginal cost and a high proportion of capital cost. The estimated average cost per unit incorporates the cost of construction of the turbine and transmission facilities, borrowed funds, return to investors (including cost of risk), estimated annual production, and other components, averaged over the projected useful life of the equipment, which may be in excess of twenty years. Energy cost estimates are highly dependent on these assumptions so published cost figures can differ substantially. A British Wind Energy Association report gives an average generation cost of onshore wind power of around 3.2 pence per kilowatt hour (2005).[90] Cost per unit of energy produced was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the United States for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal at $53.10/MWh and natural gas at $52.50.[91] Other sources in various studies have estimated wind to be more expensive than other sources (see Economics of new nuclear power plants, Clean coal, and Carbon capture and storage).

In 2004, wind energy cost one-fifth of what it did in the 1980s, and some expected that downward trend to continue as larger multi-megawatt turbines were mass-produced.[92] However, installed cost averaged €1,300 per kilowatt in 2007,[93] compared to €1,100 per kilowatt in 2005.[94] Not as many facilities can produce large modern turbines and their towers and foundations, so constraints develop in the supply of turbines resulting in higher costs.[95] Research from a wide variety of sources in various countries shows that support for wind power is consistently between 70 and 80 percent amongst the general public.[96]

Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) figures show that 2007 recorded an increase of installed capacity of 20 GW, taking the total installed wind energy capacity to 94 GW, up from 74 GW in 2006. Despite constraints facing supply chains for wind turbines, the annual market for wind continued to increase at an estimated rate of 31% following 32% growth in 2006. In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has become one of the important players in the energy markets, with the total value of new generating equipment installed in 2007 reaching €25 billion, or US$36 billion.[93]

Existing generation capacity represents sunk costs, and the decision to continue production will depend on marginal costs going forward, not estimated average costs at project inception. For example, the estimated cost of new wind power capacity may be lower than that for "new coal" (estimated average costs for new generation capacity) but higher than for "old coal" (marginal cost of production for existing capacity). Therefore, the choice to increase wind capacity will depend on factors including the profile of existing generation capacity.

Theoretical potential Edit

File:US wind power map.png

Wind power available in the atmosphere is much greater than current world energy consumption. The most comprehensive study to date[97] found the potential of wind power on land and near-shore to be 72 TW, equivalent to 54,000 MToE (million tons of oil equivalent) per year, or over five times the world's current energy use in all forms. The potential takes into account only locations with mean annual wind speeds ≥ 6.9 m/s at 80 m. It assumes 6 turbines per square km for 77 m diameter, 1.5 MW-turbines on roughly 13% of the total global land area (though that land would also be available for other compatible uses such as farming). The authors acknowledge that many practical barriers would need to be overcome to reach this theoretical capacity.

The practical limit to exploitation of wind power will be set by economic and environmental factors, since the resource available is far larger than any practical means to develop it.

Direct costs Edit

Many potential sites for wind farms are far from demand centres, requiring substantially more money to construct new transmission lines and substations. In some regions this is partly because frequent strong winds themselves have discouraged dense human settlement in especially windy areas. The wind which was historically a nuisance is now becoming a valuable resource, but it may be far from large populations which developed in areas more sheltered from wind.

Since the primary cost of producing wind energy is construction and there are no fuel costs, the average cost of wind energy per unit of production depends on a few key assumptions, such as the cost of capital and years of assumed service. The marginal cost of wind energy once a plant is constructed is usually less than 1 cent per kilowatt-hour.[98] Since the cost of capital plays a large part in projected cost, risk (as perceived by investors) will affect projected costs per unit of electricity.

The commercial viability of wind power also depends on the pricing regime for power producers. Electricity prices are highly regulated worldwide, and in many locations may not reflect the full cost of production, let alone indirect subsidies or negative externalities. Customers may enter into long-term pricing contracts for wind to reduce the risk of future pricing changes, thereby ensuring more stable returns for projects at the development stage. These may take the form of standard offer contracts, whereby the system operator undertakes to purchase power from wind at a fixed price for a certain period (perhaps up to a limit); these prices may be different than purchase prices from other sources, and even incorporate an implicit subsidy.

In jurisdictions where the price for electricity is based on market mechanisms, revenue for all producers per unit is higher when their production coincides with periods of higher prices. The profitability of wind farms will therefore be higher if their production schedule coincides with these periods. If wind represents a significant portion of supply, average revenue per unit of production may be lower as more expensive and less-efficient forms of generation, which typically set revenue levels, are displaced from economic dispatch.Template:Fact This may be of particular concern if the output of many wind plants in a market have strong temporal correlation. In economic terms, the marginal revenue of the wind sector as penetration increases may diminish.

External costs Edit

Template:Unreferencedsection Most forms of energy production create some form of negative externality: costs that are not paid by the producer or consumer of the good. For electric production, the most significant externality is pollution, which imposes social costs in increased health expenses, reduced agricultural productivity, and other problems. In addition, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced when fossil fuels are burned, may impose even greater costs in the form of global warming. Few mechanisms currently exist to internalise these costs, and the total cost is highly uncertain. Other significant externalities can include military expenditures to ensure access to fossil fuels, remediation of polluted sites, destruction of wild habitat, loss of scenery/tourism, etc.

If the external costs are taken into account, wind energy can be competitive in more cases, as costs have generally decreased due to technology development and scale enlargement. Supporters argue that, once external costs and subsidies to other forms of electrical production are accounted for, wind energy is amongst the least costly forms of electrical production. Critics argue that the level of required subsidies, the small amount of energy needs met, the expense of transmission lines to connect the wind farms to population centers, and the uncertain financial returns to wind projects make it inferior to other energy sources. Intermittency and other characteristics of wind energy also have costs that may rise with higher levels of penetration, and may change the cost-benefit ratio.

Incentives Edit

File:Wind energy converter5.jpg

Wind energy in many jurisdictions receives some financial or other support to encourage its development. A key issue is the comparison to other forms of energy production, and their total cost. Two main points of discussion arise: direct subsidies and externalities for various sources of electricity, including wind. Wind energy benefits from subsidies of various kinds in many jurisdictions, either to increase its attractiveness, or to compensate for subsidies received by other forms of production which have significant negative externalities.

In the United States, wind power receives a tax credit for each kilowatt-hour produced; at 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2006, the credit has a yearly inflationary adjustment. Another tax benefit is accelerated depreciation. Many American states also provide incentives, such as exemption from property tax, mandated purchases, and additional markets for "green credits." Countries such as Canada and Germany also provide incentives for wind turbine construction, such as tax credits or minimum purchase prices for wind generation, with assured grid access (sometimes referred to as feed-in tariffs). These feed-in tariffs are typically set well above average electricity prices. The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 contains extensions of credits for wind, including microturbines.

Secondary market forces also provide incentives for businesses to use wind-generated power, even if there is a premium price for the electricity. For example, socially responsible manufacturers pay utility companies a premium that goes to subsidize and build new wind power infrastructure. Companies like the Borealis Press print millions of greeting cards every year using this wind-generated power, and in return they can claim that they are making a powerful "green" effort, in addition to using recycled, chlorine-free paper, soy inks, and safe press wash. The organization Green-e http://www.green-e.org monitors business compliance with these renewable energy credits.

Environmental effects Edit

Main article: Environmental effects of wind power

Wind power consumes no fuel for continuing operation, and has no emissions directly related to electricity production. Operation does not produce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulates, or any other type of air pollution, as do fossil fuel power sources. Wind power plants consume resources in manufacturing and construction. During manufacture of the wind turbine, steel, concrete, aluminum and other materials will have to be made and transported using energy-intensive processes, generally using fossil energy sources. The initial carbon dioxide emissions "pay back" is claimed by one company to be within about 9 months of operation for their offshore turbines[100] and the British Wind Energy Association claim the average wind farm will pay back the energy used in its manufacture within 3-5 months of operation.[101] However, a report to the British House of Lords in 2004 suggested a payback time of 1.1 years, taking into account factors such as plant construction and decommissioning. A shorter period for offshore facilities was given, as the higher capacity factors would more than offset the added energy costs of installation.[102]

Danger to birds is often the main complaint against the installation of a wind turbine.[103][104] However, studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is negligible compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities such as traffic, hunting, power lines and high-rise buildings and especially the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources. For example, in the UK, where there are several hundred turbines, about one bird is killed per turbine per year; 10 million per year are killed by cars alone.[105] The Audubon Society have also come out in support of wind energy generation, claiming that birds are over 10,000 times more likely to be killed by other human-related causes than by a wind turbine.[106]

Migratory bat species appear to be particularly at risk, especially during key movement periods (spring and more importantly in fall). Lasiurines such as the hoary bat, red bat, and the silver-haired bat appear to be most vulnerable at North American sites. Almost nothing is known about current populations of these species and the impact on bat numbers as a result of mortality at windpower locations. Offshore wind sites 10 km or more from shore do not interact with bat populations.[107]

Aesthetics have also been a concern. The Massachusetts Cape Wind project was delayed for years mainly because of aesthetic concerns.[108]

For human neighbors, the noise created by large wind turbines is often a nuisance. Some people claim that the noise, consisting of both audible as inaudible low frequencies, makes them sick -- not just from lack of sleep. The consistency of this complaint and the symptoms described led the physician Nina Pierpont to call it "wind turbine syndrome."

See also Edit

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References Edit

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External links Edit

Wind power projects Edit

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