Wind Energy: Current Status and Future

Introduction

According to Chu and Majumdar, “energy cannot be stored or destroyed; however, it can be converted from one form to another through certain technological means” (300). Wind energy is one of the cleanest and renewable ways of producing electricity. In the past, human beings used wind energy to sail ships. A family in South Dakota discovered wind energy in the 19th century (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 340). The family had a small wind driven turbine that could only supply electrical energy for home use. The turbine, though small, would provide the family with enough energy to power a radio and meet the electrical needs for the family (Wagner and Mathur 85).

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From this family, the technology spread and wind energy farms were established all over the world. Wind energy requires the use of turbines, which are rotated by wind, and in the process, energy is generated. Traditional turbines were made from wood, were small, and they could not produce high amounts of energy (Đurović and Đurović 4).

However, today’s turbines are large and they are connected to a rotor, which makes them more effective as compared to the conventional ones. With the ongoing campaigns against environmental pollution, most countries have invested heavily in the production of this form of energy since it causes no environmental pollution like other forms of energy such as oil and coal. Wind energy is slowly dominating the energy market due to its cheap cost and the expected price rise of other sources of energy like coal and oil. This paper explores wind energy in the contemporary times and in the future.

Wind energy constraints

Even though wind energy is taken as the cleanest form of renewable energy, it has some shortcomings. The greatest problem of wind energy lies in its reliability (Piwko et al. 48). Wind energy is not a reliable source of energy since its generation depends entirely on the prevailing weather conditions. The absence of wind to turn the turbines means that no energy will be produced. Wind energy can only be produced in areas with strong winds such as in the highlands and near large water masses and it is less likely to be efficient in areas without such strong winds. Variations in the amounts of energy generated are also evident at different hours of the day depending on the strength of the wind. In a bid to increase reliability of this type of energy, wind energy farms have been established near large water masses where wind is presumably abundant throughout the year.

Wind energy today

Wind energy today has earned the confidence of people due to its cheap costs of production. Wind energy is largely used in many parts of the world according to statistics. In Denmark, for example, wind energy contributes 25% of the energy needs of the country. The 2011 statistics show that more than 83 countries in the world rely on wind energy for their electrical and lighting needs (Wagner and Mathur 88). The same statistics reveal that as of 2011, wind energy contributed 3% of the world’s electricity usage. Wind energy, according to the statistics, is growing at 25% per annum, which is a faster rate as compared to other forms of energy (Wagner and Mathur 89).

The invention of larger turbines with larger rotors is a great boost to the wind energy sector as the new turbines have the ability to produce more power as compared to the old small turbines (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 344). The larger turbines have the advantage of capturing large amounts of wind since they have large rotors and the hub is located at a higher height to enable the turbine to increase the speed. Contrary to other forms of energy, the cost of wind energy has decreased progressively.

The traditional wind power production was expensive due to the small amounts of energy produced by the small turbines. The traditional turbines were expensive and had smaller rotors as compared to the modern ones. However, the mass of the new turbines should be well managed even as their size is increased if they are to remain effective.

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The past few years have heralded numerous developments in the wind power generation. Governments have increased their energy budgets coupled with supporting research into this form of energy. Figures released by the World Wind Energy Association in 2011 showed a growth of installed wind power capacity from 24 GW in 2001 to 239 GW in 2011, which is a significant growth (Wagner and Mathur 91). This huge growth is attributed to the growing concerns about environmental pollution and the need to conserve the environment. Wind energy has been credited for its cleanliness and cheaper costs of production as compared to fossil fuels.

Wind energy emits no greenhouse gases and the only pollution caused is sound pollution (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 351). The recent developments in the wind energy are expected to reduce the effect of sound pollution through establishing offshore farms in place of constructing farms on the land. Offshore wind energy farms are away from the public, and thus the sounds do not have great effects on the people.

China and Europe are the key producers of wind energy today with the biggest offshore wind energy farms. In the year 2012, there were about 1600 turbines at 55 offshore farms in Europe that were used to provide electrical to about 5 million homes (Wagner and Mathur 85). Since then, wind energy has grown and towards the end of 2013, and Europe generated about 6000 MW. London has the largest offshore farm in the world, viz. the London Array, which has the capacity of 630 MW (Wagner and Mathur 88). Siemens, which is a company in Germany, is the key producer and supplier of turbines used in the generation of wind energy (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 348).

Most countries in the world have shifted their focus from constructing wind energy farms on the local land to the construction of offshore farms (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 349). Offshore farms are constructed around large water masses where wind is believed to be stronger than on the land. In addition, the winds are strong in the evening when energy requirement is high.

Europe is leading in the construction of offshore farms and it is the pioneer of this great invention (Piwko et al. 50). The first offshore farm in Europe was established in 1991 even though its capacity was relatively low. However, in early 2013, there were 68 offshore wind farms in Europe with a capacity of 480 MW (Wagner and Mathur 100). Energy experts have projected a wind farm capacity of 45 MW in Europe by the year 2020, which will generate enough electricity to cover energy needs for about 4% of the households in Europe.

The future of wind energy

Wind energy is one of the promising sources of energy in the future due to the technological advancements that make its production cheap. Researchers have embarked on disparate studies aimed at making wind energy more attractive. Even though the production of wind power is less expensive as compared to fossil fuels, it is still more expensive than conventional means such as nuclear energy (Wagner and Mathur 89). Research on the area of cost is thus inevitable if the energy source is to grow. However, wind energy production and usage is spreading fast with a growth rate of 25% per annum, which is an indicator that it is among the fastest growing forms of energy.

In Europe, for example, statistics reveal that the country is investing more on wind energy production than in other forms of energy. In 2009, wind energy took 40% of the energy budget a clear indicator that the country has great confidence on this type of energy (Wagner and Mathur 96). However, China is ahead of Europe in the production of wind energy and in the same year, it doubled its production of wind energy (Wagner and Mathur 107).

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Europe is making huge investment on wind energy and it is estimated that wind energy will contribute 14% of its electricity needs by the year 2020 (Piwko et al. 49). In a bid to achieve this goal, the EU plans to invest in offshore facilities to increase reliability of the energy since offshore winds are strong and available for the better part of the year. Different countries have come up with policies aimed at increasing wind energy budget to reap the benefits accruing from its use. For example, London has initiated a project for the construction of what could be probably the biggest offshore wind energy farm, viz. the London Array, by 2015. The construction of the farm is at the Kent coast and it is expected to host 350 turbines with each turbine having a capacity of 1 gig watt (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 353).

Recent developments in wind energy have shifted the focus from constructing turbines locally to constructing them around water masses, in what is referred to as ‘offshore wind harvesting’. This development follows results from a number of research companies that offshore wind is reliable and strong. Offshore farms are not only based in Europe, but also in other countries across the world. Germany has established 30 offshore farms at the North Sea Baltic Sea (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 344).

On the other hand, France has opened an offshore wind energy farm, viz. the Veulettes sur-Mer, along its coastline and the construction of additional farms is underway (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 355). The construction of additional 200 wind energy farms is underway at the shores of the North Sea to make good use of the winds that blow all year round. The farms will have turbines with 60-meter blades installed and they are expected to increase energy production by 23% (Wagner and Mathur 97).

Wind energy has attracted investors from all over the world due to its cheap cost of production and promising future. Large multinational companies have been formed across the world to manufacture and sell turbines to energy producers. Germany has embarked on the construction of deep-water wind farms as opposed to the offshore ones (Wagner and Mathur 95). The deep-water wind farm in Germany is the first of its kind across the world and it is technologically advanced. Research into the deep-water offshores is however under progress and the success of Germany in the same will give a different shape to the future of wind energy. It is expected that many other countries across the world will adopt the project if it goes through successfully in the pioneer country, Germany (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 348).

The deep-water offshore farms are expected to be more reliable than the near shore farms in the production of wind energy. Therefore, wind energy is expected to increase should the country succeed in the project.

Over the last decade, wind energy production has undergone many developments. Large turbines with the ability of producing high amounts of energy have been developed to increase wind energy production (Wagner and Mathur 85). Offshore wind farms have been developed along the water masses where wind is reliable. More offshore farms are being established all over the world with the aim of increasing the energy output in the future. It is estimated that wind energy will increase by 25% per annum in the near future (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 342). Different groups have been agitating for pollution counter measures across the world, and thus wind energy being environmental friendly is expected to be a good substitute of fossil fuels that are accused of contributing to air pollution and global warming due to greenhouse emissions.

In the recent past, many countries around the world have come up with unique tariffs on wind energy production and consumption (Chu and Majumdar 300). Although the tariffs differ from one country to the other, they are all directed towards reducing prices of wind turbines. Wind turbines have been subsidized in almost all countries across the world to help individuals and farms to acquire them easily. The subsidization has attracted investors into the business, thus leading to low prices and high quality of turbines due to increased competition. Innovation has been characterizing the wind energy sector, thus leading to the production of efficient turbines. This aspect is a clear indicator that wind energy will grow in the future.

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According to the International Energy Agency, wind power will provide more than 18% of the world’s energy requirements by the year 2050 (Đurović and Đurović 5). This prediction is different from the one released in 2009 by IEA that had indicated that 12% of the world’s energy requirements would come from wind power. In a bid to achieve this goal, the agency has embarked on engineering research into the wind energy generation with the aim of producing efficient turbines. The same report showed that China would emerge as the greatest producer of wind power in the world. It is also predicted that China will be leading in wind energy production in the future, thus overtaking the US and other European countries due to the huge investments made by the country in wind energy production (Hinrichs and Kleinbach 359).

In the recent past, China has made huge investments into energy generation and research and it has started constructing large offshore wind energy farms along its coastline. In 2009, a report released by the IEA revealed that wind energy was the most advanced renewable source of energy and since then, wind farms have doubled, which a clear indicator that wind power will be among the most used sources of power in the world (Wagner and Mathur 88). However, the report recommends more research to be carried out to increase reliability of wind energy in the future.

With the great advantages acquired from using wind energy, a number of recommendations have been made in the 2013 Wind Energy Technology Roadmap (Wagner and Mathur 116). Among the recommendations made are to improve the machinery used in wind energy farms through establishing a set of international best engineering practices to improve the quality of the machines in question. In addition to quality improvement, the roadmap has also proposed the establishment of market regulations by setting uniform standards for such facilities.

The roadmap also proposes increased budget to research aimed at improving facilities in energy farms. Wind power, as a substitute of fossil fuels, is abundant in supply and it is renewable, which implies that the cost of production is low. It is amongst the cleanest forms of energy since it produces no greenhouse gases or nuclear wastes, as is the case with fossil fuels. Additionally, wind energy requires little land and it causes no direct pollution to the environment. It is the most efficient type of energy source in areas where wind is abundant.

The cost of generating energy from fossil fuels is expected to increase in the future, thus making wind energy a better option for solutions to the cost of energy production(Wagner and Mathur 105). Much of the developments in the wind energy are however expected to be offshore due to reliability of wind at the shores. Additionally, natural resources such as coal, oil, and uranium used in the generation of energy today are expected to be exhausted in the near future, thus making wind energy one of the best options for energy sources in the future.

Conclusion

Wind power is a form of energy that is extracted from the wind. It is a renewable source of energy and it is cheaper as compared to fossil fuels. Wind energy has earned the confidence of people all over the world due to its cheap cost of production. The majority of countries in the world have adopted policies that aim at doubling wind energy generation in the future, even though this goal is dependent on the speed of the available wind. However, most countries have established offshore wind energy farms near large water masses to increase reliability since at the water masses strong winds are present all year round. London has the largest offshore wind energy farm at the shores of Kent coast.

Research has indicated the possibility of generating reliable energy from the combination of both wind and water energy. In the past, wind energy production was through traditional wind turbines that could only generate small amounts of energy. However, large turbines have so far been developed that have the ability of producing great amounts of power. Further research on wind energy improvement needs to be carried out in order to increase efficiency and reliability of this important source of energy. Improved methods of weather forecasting should be imposed to increase the reliability of wind energy. Wind energy is environmental friendly and it causes no direct pollution to the environment unlike fossil fuels. Therefore, more research needs to be carried out to improve wind energy production since it is a promising source of energy.

Works Cited

Chu, Steven, and Arun Majumdar. “Opportunities and challenges for a sustainable energy future.” Nature 488.7411 (2012): 294-303. Print.

Đurović, Momir, and Siniša Đurović. “Wind energy today.” Tehnika-Elektrotehnika 55.5 (2006): 1-6. Print.

Hinrichs, Roger, and Merlin Kleinbach. Energy: its use and the environment, Boston: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

Piwko, Richard, Daniel Osborn, Ronald Gramlich, Gift Jordan, David Hawkins, and Ken Porter. “Wind energy delivery issues [transmission planning and competitive electricity market operation].” Power and Energy Magazine, IEEE 3.6 (2005): 47-56. Print.

Wagner, Hermann-Josef, and Jyotirmay Mathur. Introduction to Wind Energy Systems, Berling: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013. Print.

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