Jean-Louis BalChairman of the French renewable energy association SER
"Wind power capacity can also notably be expanded thanks to offshore wind farms"
Wind Power, Driving the Rise in Renewable Energies
Generated from strong breezes, wind powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... is an essential form of renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale... , along with solar, hydro, marine and geothermalDescribes the technology used to tap subsurface heat to produce energy... power and biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... . In this article, Jean-Louis Bal, Chairman of the French Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER), analyzes the development of wind power in France and around the world.
Wind power should be looked at within the context of the global boom in renewable energies. The International Energy Agency (IEAAn independent, intergovernmental organization founded within the framework of the OECD... ) recently revised its forecasts for the 2021 electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... mix, increasing the share of renewables to 28%. This compares with 23% in 2015, which demonstrates extremely strong growth. The instability of fossil-fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... markets and the need to limit greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... (GHG) emissions are creating an environment in which renewable energies will become the top priority in national energy mixes. Wind power has a rightful place among them.
Consider the following figures. In 2015, growth in renewables was primarily driven by onshoreRefers to land-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "onshore seismic data acquisition" or "onshore drilling". wind farms (63 gigawatts installed during the year) and photovoltaic solar power plants (49 gigawatts). As of the end of 2015, global installed wind capacity stood at 417 gigawatts, of which 405 gigawatts onshore and 12 gigawatts offshoreRefers to sea-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "offshore license" or "offshore drilling". . Europe is still the world leader in the field (136 gigawatts), followed closely by China (128 gigawatts), with North America coming in third (88 gigawatts). Wind power is expanding rapidly in China, the United States and India, as well as in several smaller countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Iran and South Africa. Growth in Europe, however, has slowed due to the relative saturation of the German wind market, the continent's largest.
France had installed wind capacity of 11 gigawatts in June 2016. The pace of growth has been uneven over time, reaching a record 1,246 new megawatts in 2009, before falling year after year to 621 megawatts in 2013, and then rising back to a fairly stable 1,100 megawatts per year since then.
The decline in growth can be attributed to an accumulation of regulatory constraints on facilities posing a risk to the environment (ICPEs) and the numerous appeals by anti-wind turbine associations, which systematically challenge all new permits. The current revival was made possible by the administrative simplification measures adopted since 2012.
Generally speaking, several factors impact the development of wind power, including:
- The wind power potential or, in other words, the strength and regularity of the wind.
- The capital outlay which, in addition to the price of manufacturing, installing and connecting the turbines, depends on the length of the administrative procedures and studies, as well as on the finance costs. In France, putting together a project is a costly affair because of the significant amount of red tape. However, it is extremely cheap in emerging countries such as Morocco or Egypt, where there are plenty of wide open land available.
- Technological advances, which have improved capacity factors while reducing operating expenses.
Overall, the price of wind power per kilowatt-hour has fallen. While the decline has clearly not been as spectacular as in the photovoltaic solar industry, costs in Europe have dropped to between $65 and $85 per megawatt-hour, compared with an average of more than $100 in 2010, according to the IEA. Certain calls for tenders have recently been awarded at even lower prices in countries with enough space for huge wind farms, such as Egypt ($40) and Morocco (around $30).
Wind power capacity can also notably be expanded thanks to offshore wind farms, even if they come at a high price tag: €200 per megawatt-hour in France, but already as low as €87 including grid connection in the Netherlands, which is not far from onshore costs. The significant difference between the French and the Dutch price can be explained by recent technological advances, greater wind power potential and above all a simplified regulatory framework for calls for tenders. In the Netherlands, the preliminary wind, bathymetric and geotechnical surveys are carried out by the government before the call for tenders, and the administrative authorizations are granted at the same time as the tender.
Europe has a virtual monopoly on offshore wind farms, a situation that can be explained by the scarcity of available land. The United States, on the other hand, has barely explored the sector due to its vast deserted plains. According to the IEA, Europe has an installed capacityThe power generation capacity of a particular plant. It is usually expressed in megawatts (or sometimes even gigawatts)... of 11 gigawatts versus 1 gigawatt in China. The United Kingdom currently leads the pack with 5.1 gigawatts, ahead of Germany with 3.3 gigawatts. Denmark arrives in third place with 1.3 gigawatts, a considerable effort given the size of the country.
While France does not yet have any offshore wind turbines, two calls for tenders for a total of six wind farms (3,000 megawatts) have been launched with an initial commitment to build three farms – a decision that has unsurprisingly been challenged in court. It is unlikely that work will begin before 2019 or 2020.
Jean-Louis Bal is an electrical engineer and a graduate of École Polytechnique de Louvain in Belgium. After working in private-sector solar power companies for 17 years, Jean-Louis Bal joined the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) in 1992, where his responsibilities included promoting renewable energies and energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... . He was also one of the main rapporteurs of France's Grenelle Environment Forum. Jean-Louis Bal was elected Chairman of the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) in 2011 and was re-elected in 2013. With some 350 member companies, the SER publishes a quarterly report on renewable electricity in collaboration with French transmission system operator RTE, distribution system operator Enedis and electric company industry association ADEeF.