Wind Energy and the Public Opinion
Let us consider now the public opinion regarding the use of wind energy in Europe. According to Morales Pedraza (2008), a summary of public opinion surveys carried out in a number of countries, including Spain, the UK, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden, shows substantial majorities in favor of wind energy, especially when compared with existing fuel sources. In some countries, direct involvement of the public in wind energy projects has helped to encourage public acceptance. For example, in Denmark, about 150,000 families own wind turbines or shares in wind turbine cooperatives for the production of electricity.
Wind turbines are a relatively new feature in the European countryside and will become more visible as more wind farms are built. Consultation with, and acceptance by, local communities is essential, especially in rural areas where particularly high value is placed on the landscape amenity. Acceptance is more likely where there has been a clear assessment of the impacts of a proposed wind farm, and the mitigation measures have been properly explained. Once sited, however, existing activities such as agriculture can continue operating alongside wind farms.
Summing up, it can be said that wind power has many benefits that make it an attractive source of power for both utility-scale and small distributed power generation applications. The beneficial characteristics of wind power include the following:
• Clean and inexhaustible fuel: Wind power produces no emissions and is not depleted over time. A single 1-MWe wind turbine running for one year can dis- place over 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 6.5 tons of sulfur dioxide, 3.2 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 60 pounds of mercury (based on the US average utility generation fuel mix);
• Local economic development: Wind farms can provide a steady flow of income to landowners who lease their land for wind development, while increasing property tax revenues for local communities;
• Modular and scalable technology: Wind applications can take many forms, including large wind farms, distributed generation, and single end-use systems. Utilities can use wind resources strategically to help reduce load-forecasting risks and stranded costs;
• Energy price stability: By further diversifying the energy mix, wind energy
reduces dependence on conventional fuels that are subject to price and supply volatility;
• Reduced reliance on imported fuels: Wind energy expenditures are not used to obtain fuel from abroad, keeping funds closer to home, and lessening dependence on foreign governments that supply these fuels (Reeves).
Today, wind power installed in Europe is saving over 50 million tons of CO2 every year. If current trends in growth continue, wind energy could save 109 million tons per year, the equivalent of more than 30 % of the EU’s total Kyoto Protocol obligation (EWEA 2005).
Lastly, it is important to stress that wind energy capacity installed in Europe in the past 15 years is the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants, but with half of the price.
In summary, wind power differs from conventional sources of energy in three main ways: The prime mover is wind, the location of resources, and the electrical machines. Controllability and availability of wind power significantly differ from thermal or hydro generation because the primary energy source cannot be stored and is uncontrollable. Wind power does not complicate very much short-term balancing, and all wind turbine types can be used for it, although variable speed wind turbines have better capabilities. Long-term balancing is problematic. The power generated by wind turbines depends on the actual value of the wind speed. When there is no wind, no power from wind turbines is available. For this reason, wind turbines com- plicate the long-term balancing task, particularly at high-wind power penetrations.
Considering the reduced contribution of wind generators to short-circuit power and the high meshed level of the European networks, a short circuit on the transmission network can lead to widespread voltage dips to neighboring TSOs. Therefore, the fault ride-through capability of wind generators is a useful require- ment to prevent large outages of wind power dependent on the given regional potential gradient area.