Introduction to The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Wind Energy for Electricity Generation

Abstract The energy sector of today faces a triple challenge, how to tackle climate change and meet rapidly increasing demand for energy while ensuring the security of its supply. Wind energy can be a significant part of the answer, if sufficient sup- port and increased political will are applied to its development. The strong development of wind power to date can continue in the coming years as long as the clear commitment of the EU member states to wind power development continues to strengthen, and as long as this support is translated into the construction of wind farms. Undoubtedly, there is a noticeable shift in attitudes toward wind power in many countries. While the technology would have been dismissed as too expensive by many developing country energy planners just a few years ago, the continuing success of the technology in an ever-widening group of countries has changed that attitude to one of the dramatically increased knowledge about wind generation and the role that it can play in a country’s power mix.

Introduction

The energy sector of today faces a triple challenge, how to tackle climate change and meet rapidly increasing demand for energy while ensuring the security of its supply. Wind energy can be a significant part of the answer, if sufficient support and increased political will are applied to its development. The strong development of wind power to date can continue in the coming years as long as the clear commitment of the EU member states to wind power development continues to strengthen, and as long as this support is translated into the construction of wind farms (Zervos and Kjaer 2008).

Undoubtedly, there is a noticeable shift in attitudes toward wind power in many countries. While the technology would have been dismissed as too expensive by many developing country energy planners just a few years ago, the continuing success of the technology in an ever widening group of countries has changed that attitude to one of the dramatically increased knowledge about wind generation and the role that it can play in a country’s power mix (GWEC 2011).

The first wind-powered electricity was produced by a machine built by Charles F. Brush in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1888. It had a rated power of 12 kW (direct cur- rent—DC). Direct current electricity production continued in the form of small- scale, stand-alone (not connected to a grid) systems until the 1930s when the first large-scale AC (alternative current) turbine was constructed in the USA. There was then a general lull in interest until the 1970s when the fuel crises sparked a revival in research and development work in North America (USA and Canada) and Europe (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK). During the 1980s, installed capacity costs dropped considerably and wind power has become an economically attractive option for commercial electricity generation for many countries. Large wind farms or wind power plants have become a common sight in many developed countries and in several countries in the developing world as well.

Europe is a world leader in renewable energy and in the most promising and mature renewable technology: wind power. Wind energy is a relatively young, but rapidly expanding industry. As a proven source of clean and affordable energy, wind resources clearly have a vital role to play in the generation of electricity within the European region. It is little surprise, therefore, that the wind power sec- tor has grown exponentially in recent years. Europe has a particular competitive advantage in wind power technology.

Wind is an endless resource that only requires increased research for its effective extraction, accurate prediction, optimized and intelligent integration, and a market penetration large enough to absorb weather systems. Wind energy is one of Europe’s largest indigenous energy resources, bigger than oil, coal, and gas together. Wind can reduce energy import dependence as part of a more diverse and modernized European electricity supply. If Europe is to have a secure electricity supply at stable prices, diversity and mitigating reliance on non-indigenous energy sources are essential (EWEA 2005).

According to Hammons and others, wind power will grow primarily in the form of large wind farms that centrally feed into the transmission grids. Large offshore wind farm sites, with rated power up to 1,000 MW, are expected to be installed in the North and in the Baltic Seas.

Wind energy will not only be able to contribute to securing European energy independence and climate goals, but in the future, it could also turn a serious energy supply problem into an opportunity for Europe, in the forms of commercial benefits, technology research, exports, and employment. Without reliable, sustain- able, and reasonably priced energy, there can be no sustainable long-term growth and Europe will become economically disadvantaged. The fact that the wind power source is free and clean is, of course, economically and environmentally significant, but the more fundamental point at issue is that the cost of the electricity is fixed, once the plant has been built. The long-term implication is that the economic future of Europe can be planned on the basis of known and predictable cost of electricity, derived from an indigenous energy source free of all the security, political, economic, and environmental disadvantages associated with oil and gas (EWEA 2005).

Wind energy technology has made major progress since the generation of wind turbines from the early 1980s. Twenty-five years of technological progress have resulted in today’s wind turbines being a state-of-the-art modern technology, mod- ular and quick to install. At a given site, a single modern wind turbine annually produces 200 times more electricity and at less than half the cost per kWh than its equivalent twenty years ago. Owing to ongoing improvements in turbine efficiency and higher fuel prices, wind power is becoming economically competitive with conventional power production, and at sites with high wind speeds on land, wind power is considered to be fully commercial.

In general, modern wind turbines use the energy content of the wind to produce electricity. Thereby, electricity generation from wind power is characterized by the following:

High volatility of the power output: Due to the strong dependence of the power output of the wind speed, short- as well as medium- to long-term fluctua- tions appears. In this context, wind power prediction methods are developed to overcome the lack of planning awareness. The quality of a possible wind power plant site can be determined by deriving the local wind climate, i.e., average annual wind speed and wind speed distribution;

Standardized and proven power conversion technology: The stable, grow-

ing demand for wind power starting in Europe within the early 1990s led, especially, Denmark and Germany to become the leading countries with respect to the wind turbine-manufacturing industry. Technological solutions differ in detail by the manufacturer, but in general, the overall concepts are proven and well established. The various components are standardized, and manufacturing is characterized by major competition. Nevertheless, the typical plant size increased rapidly within the 1990s, mainly driven by the growing demand for offshore developments. Currently, the size of typical onshore turbines is in a range between 1 and 2 MW.

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