Expectations of wind energy have been substantially increased in recent months due to the combination of rising fossil fuel prices, devastating oil spills and the shelving or downsizing of several nuclear programmes following the crisis at Fukushima.
Every month in 2009 and 2010, the global wind energy industry installed new capacity equivalent to the output of 1.2 average nuclear reactors. According to the EWEA*, expectations are that in 2015 wind power will avoid € 23.7Bn of fossil fuel costs – € 15.1Bn of coal costs, €6.4Bn of gas costs and €1.7Bn of oil costs – to produce electricity. This is based on a moderate development of wind power, with 460 GW of global cumulative wind power capacity installed by 2015, compared to 200 GW last year
Figures for 2020 will be even more substantial (€87Bn of fuel costs saved), whilst for 2030, EWEA forecasts that wind energy will meet 26-34% of Europe’s electricity demand, with almost as much electricity coming from offshore turbines as from those onshore.
Forecasts may soon become more bullish with potential developments in turbine technology. Today, maximum rating of production turbines is little over 7.5MW. New research shows that 20 MW wind turbines are feasible by 2020, provided a new, innovative, tailored design is funded, developed and adopted.
Numerous factors would contribute to this new design including 200m rotor diameters and lighter, fore-bended, two-section blades with individual control to lower fatigue with smart technology enabling blades to change position and pitch according to prevailing wind conditions.
These new turbines would be monsters of the sea or land, and may not to everyone’s liking, but many industrial innovations go through the cycle of initial rejection, then begrudging acceptance, to finish with wholehearted acceptance. It may all depend on the extent to which we value green energy and protecting the Blue Planet. And that these monsters are reliable and do not suffer catastrophic collapses like several of their forebears.
Aeolus would be proud of his increasing influence in the mix.
* European Wind Energy Association