The future for current energy sources
- Oil and gas - still indispensable
- The place of coal in the energy mix of tomorrow
- Does nuclear energy offer a solution to global warming ?
- Renewable energy
The Future of Wind Energy
Wind energy is a clean, renewable way of producing electricity. If costs are brought down, its future looks assured as a complement to other electrical production technologies such as fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and solar energy. Much of its future development will undoubtedly be offshore.
Even today, wind energy's advantages and disadvantages are the subject of intense debate. Because electricity from wind is currently more expensive to produce than conventional means such as nuclear and thermal energy, it requires grant aid (mainly in the form of preferential purchase rates). The immediate future of wind energy could be stalled if its adversaries manage to win over public authorities in some countries.
In spite of all this, wind energy is developing at a fast pace in almost all countries worldwide, with growth of 10-40% per year. In Europe, as part of the active renewable energy development policy, wind energy is punching above its weight. in 2009, more wind turbines were erected here than any other form of energy production, with 39% of all new facilities. However, Europe is still far behind China, where the production of wind energy doubled in 2009.
The GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council) is projecting installed worldwide capacity of 400 GW by 20141. For its part, the EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) estimates that by 2030, wind energy could supply 26-35% of electricity2 in Europe.
Offshore- the Future of Wind Energy
The European Union's 2007 roadmap for renewable energy sources estimates that wind energy could account for 13% of the electricity consumed in the EU by 2020. A third of this electricity will probably be produced by offshore facilities (at sea, where the wind is stronger and more reliable). Various techniques are envisaged and in some cases testing is underway. These include artificial islands, wind turbines on floating foundations anchored at depths of up to 60m, similar to oil rigs.
In the last few years, wind energy's installed capacity has soared spectacularly at a rate of 30% per year. Denmark and the United Kingdom are leaders in this area. The London Array, which will be built 20km off the Kent coast, will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world. On completion in 2015, it will have 300 turbines with total capacity of 1 gigawatt.
Germany is close behind with thirty-odd offshore wind farm projects in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea - some of these are already operational. France is currently studying projects located 2-20km from its coastline, the first of which will shortly be opened off the coast of Veulettes-sur-Mer in Normandy.
In the future, projects similar to the gigantic turbines in the Beatrice oil field in the North Sea could add to the number of wind farms, using existing facilities and thus reducing investment costs. Plans are being studied to build 200 turbines in the Beatrice oil field, at depths of 45 meters; and each of which will have 60 meter blades that can withstand the North Sea winds.