Wind Power in 15 Pictures

Published on 01.16.2015
Middle School

5 min read

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1. Wind turbines have become part of the landscape

Whether gigantic farms on the plains or out at sea, a chain of turbines along mountain ridges or small-scale units close to cities, wind turbines have become a familiar part of the scenery in the 21st-century. They are the visible symbol — too visible for some — of . In 2013, wind accounted for around 3% of global production. In France, wind turbines generate enough electricity to meet the household needs of 5 million people. The photo shows the Merdelou-Fontanelles wind farm in southern France.

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2. In China, wind farms stretch as far as the eye can see

China holds the world record for the highest , with 91.5 GW at end-2013, and for the largest wind farm. The Gansu Wind Farm, also known as the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, in the center of the country is actually dozens and dozens of wind farms linked together. It currently has total installed capacity of 5.2 GW, which is similar to that of two nuclear reactors, with a 2020 target of 20 GW.

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3. Texas doesn’t just have oil !

With 61 GW of installed capacity out of a global total of more than 250 GW, the United States is the second-largest wind power generating country in the world. In Texas, the state leading the charge, the Roscoe, Horse Hollow and Capricorn Ridge wind farms, among many others, have total installed capacity of 600 to 800 MW, enough to meet the power needs of 500,000 people. In the photo, technicians are preparing to lift the blades of a giant wind turbine at the Capricorn Ridge wind farm near the city of Abilene.

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4. Palm Springs is powered by 4,000 wind turbines

The U.S. testing ground for all renewable energies, California has 5 GW of installed wind power capacity, versus 12 GW for Texas. At the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm near Palm Springs, the landscape is covered with row after row of wind turbines, which impress not by their height — 30 to 50 meters, compared with 150 meters for giant turbines — but by their number, with more than 4,000 altogether. Kansas, Oregon and Oklahoma have also invested in wind power. Since 2010, however, installation has slowed in the United States, which has now been overtaken by China.

Germany, the European leader in wind power

5. Germany, the European leader in wind power

In Europe, Germany is at the front of the pack in terms of total installed capacity, with 35 GW, followed closely by big wind power producer Spain, which has 23 GW. Most of Germany’s wind farms are located in the country’s north, both and . Two of the world’s top five wind turbine manufacturers are German — Siemens and Enercon — and Hanover hosts an international trade show every two years, with close to 5,000 exhibitors. In the photo, a turbine manufactured by Enercon.

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6. Romania opens its plains to investors

The largest onshore wind farm in Europe is — surprisingly — located in Romania. This primarily rural country has opened up its market to foreign investors. In the large farming and tourist region of Dobruja, near the Black Sea, 240 wind turbines have sprouted up near the town of Cogealac, covering an area of 1,100 hectares. This 600 MW wind farm supplies electricity to more than 400,000 households.

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7. Scotland, a major player in wind power

With low levels of sunshine and high levels of wind, Scotland boasts Europe’s second-largest onshore wind farm — Whitelee. Its 215 turbines built by Siemens and Alstom give Whitelee a total capacity of 539 MW. The United Kingdom is currently Europe's third largest wind power producer, with 10.8 GW, ahead of Italy, with 8.5 GW, and France, with 8.1 GW. It is also making significant progress by investing heavily in offshore solutions.

Offshore wind power

8. Europe, at the forefront of the offshore wind power segment

Backed by powerful industrial players, favorable public policies and ambitious investment programs, Europe is actively developing offshore wind power solutions. With 69 offshore wind farms in 11 countries at end-2013, it has enough capacity to supply external markets. The United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany are the current leaders, while France has issued calls for tenders for several major projects. The photo shows a wind turbine next to an electrical substation at an offshore wind farm near Helgoland, a German island in the North Sea.

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9. An offshore wind farm seen from up above

Installing wind turbines in the ocean, where winds are strong and steady, is the solution that is enjoying the strongest growth today — as can be seen by astronauts! This is a picture of the Thames Estuary taken from space. The tiny white dots set out in rows, with a boat zigzagging between them, are the wind turbines that make up the massive London Array wind farm.

10. The London Array seen from the water’s surface

Back on Earth, this is what the London Array wind farm looks like close up. It comprises 175 wind turbines that stand 87 meters above sea level and are located 650 to 1,000 meters apart over a total area of 240 kilometers. Rated at 630 MW, the London Array generates enough energy to power around 500,000 British homes. From the coast, the wind turbines are just visible to the naked eye.

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11. Denmark, the trailblazer

This small northern European country was a pioneer in wind power production, an industry developed in the early 2000s and heavily subsidized by the state. It therefore has significant industrial infrastructure, but struggles to balance its electricity production due to the intermittence of wind power caused by the wind’s irregular nature. As a result, it relies heavily on with its neighbors, particularly other Scandinavian countries and Germany. The photo shows wind turbines at the Horns Rev wind farm offshore Denmark.

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12. The requisite industrial component

All new technologies require strong manufacturing capabilities to ensure their development. While China and the United States dominate in the photovoltaic solar segment, Europe has a number of major players in the wind power industry, including Vestas from Denmark, Siemens and Enercon from Germany, Gamesa from Spain and Alstom and Vergnet from France.

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13. A trend that is sweeping the world

Many countries around the world are developing wind power capabilities. India now ranks fifth worldwide with 20.2 GW, while Latin America, including Mexico, has 6.7 GW and the Africa-Middle East region a total of 1.25 GW. This is a photo of the Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco, which started up in 2014. With 300 MW of capacity, it is the biggest wind farm in Africa and its production is equivalent to the electricity needs of the entire city of Marrakesh.

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14. Tokyo mulls increasing its wind power capacity

Limited by its small surface area, Japan is not a major wind power producer, with just 2.7 GW versus 8.1 GW for France. The photo shows some of the 33 turbines that make up the 65 MW Nunobiki Plateau wind farm in Fukushima prefecture. Seeking to diversify its energy sources after the Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan is looking at various options, including floating wind turbine technology.

15. Is there a future for micro wind turbines?

Only large wind power facilities are capable of delivering enough capacity to supply power grids with a significant amount of electricity. However, urban planners are counting on micro wind turbines to supplement buildings’ power supply and make them energy self-sufficient. In the photo, the Maison de l’Air in Paris’s 20th arrondissement and its two micro wind turbines.

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