Wind power

Summary

Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

2019 world electricity generation by source (total generation was 27 PWh)[1][2]

  Coal (37%)
  Natural gas (24%)
  Hydro (16%)
  Nuclear (10%)
  Wind (5%)
  Solar (3%)
  Other (5%)

Wind power or wind energy is the use of wind turbines to generate electricity. Wind power is a popular, sustainable, renewable energy source that has a much smaller impact on the environment than burning fossil fuels. Wind farms consist of many individual wind turbines, which are connected to the electric power transmission network.

In 2020, wind supplied almost 1600 TWh of electricity, which was over 5% of worldwide electrical generation and about 2% of energy consumption.[3][4] With over 100 GW added during 2020, mostly in China, global installed wind power capacity reached more than 730 GW.[5][4] But to help meet Paris Agreement goals to limit climate change analysts say it should expand much faster - by over 1% of electricity generation per year.[6] Expansion of wind power is being hindered by fossil fuel subsidies.[7][8][9]

Offshore wind is steadier and stronger than on land and has less visual impact. Although there is less offshore at present and construction and maintenance costs are higher it is forecast to expand.[10]

Onshore wind is an inexpensive source of electric power, competitive with, or in many places cheaper than, coal or gas plants. Onshore wind farms have a greater visual impact on the landscape than other power stations, as they need to be spread over more land[11][12] and need to be built in rural areas.[13] Small onshore wind farms can feed some energy into the grid or provide power to isolated off-grid locations.

Wind power is variable renewable energy. So power-management techniques are used to match supply and demand such as: wind hybrid power systems, hydroelectric power or other dispatchable power sources, excess capacity, geographically distributed turbines, exporting and importing power to neighboring areas, grid storage, and reducing demand when wind production is low. As the proportion of wind power in a region increases the grid may need to be upgraded.[14][15] Weather forecasting permits the electric-power network to be readied for the predictable variations in production that occur.

Wind energy

Global map of wind speed at 100 m above surface level.[16]
Roscoe Wind Farm: an onshore wind farm in West Texas near Roscoe
Distribution of wind speed (red) and energy (blue) for all of 2002 at the Lee Ranch facility in Colorado. The histogram shows measured data, while the curve is the Rayleigh model distribution for the same average wind speed.

Wind energy is the kinetic energy of air in motion, also called wind. Total wind energy flowing through an imaginary surface with area A during the time t is:

[17]

where ρ is the density of air; v is the wind speed; Avt is the volume of air passing through A (which is considered perpendicular to the direction of the wind); Avtρ is therefore the mass m passing through A. ½ ρv2 is the kinetic energy of the moving air per unit volume.

Power is energy per unit time, so the wind power incident on A (e.g. equal to the rotor area of a wind turbine) is:

[17]

Wind power in an open air stream is thus proportional to the third power of the wind speed; the available power increases eightfold when the wind speed doubles. Wind turbines for grid electric power, therefore, need to be especially efficient at greater wind speeds.[clarification needed]

Wind is the movement of air across the surface of the Earth, driven by areas of high and low pressure.[18] The global wind kinetic energy averaged approximately 1.50 MJ/m2 over the period from 1979 to 2010, 1.31 MJ/m2 in the Northern Hemisphere with 1.70 MJ/m2 in the Southern Hemisphere. The atmosphere acts as a thermal engine, absorbing heat at higher temperatures, releasing heat at lower temperatures. The process is responsible for the production of wind kinetic energy at a rate of 2.46 W/m2 thus sustaining the circulation of the atmosphere against friction.[19]

Through wind resource assessment it is possible to estimate wind power potential globally, by country or region, or for a specific site. The Global Wind Atlas provided by the Technical University of Denmark in partnership with the World Bank provides a global assessment of wind power potential.[16][20][21] Unlike 'static' wind resource atlases which average estimates of wind speed and power density across multiple years, tools such as Renewables.ninja provide time-varying simulations of wind speed and power output from different wind turbine models at an hourly resolution.[22] More detailed, site-specific assessments of wind resource potential can be obtained from specialist commercial providers, and many of the larger wind developers have in-house modeling capabilities.

The total amount of economically extractable power available from the wind is considerably more than present human power use from all sources.[23] The strength of wind varies, and an average value for a given location does not alone indicate the amount of energy a wind turbine could produce there.

To assess prospective wind power sites a probability distribution function is often fit to the observed wind speed data.[24] Different locations will have different wind speed distributions. The Weibull model closely mirrors the actual distribution of hourly/ten-minute wind speeds at many locations. The Weibull factor is often close to 2 and therefore a Rayleigh distribution can be used as a less accurate, but simpler model.[25]

Wind farms

Large onshore wind farms
Wind farm Capacity
(MW)
Country Refs
Gansu Wind Farm 7,965  China [26]
Muppandal wind farm 1,500  India [27]
Alta (Oak Creek-Mojave) 1,320  United States [28]
Jaisalmer Wind Park 1,064  India [29]
Global growth of installed capacity[30]

A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location. A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines distributed over an extended area. The land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. For example, Gansu Wind Farm, the largest wind farm in the world, has several thousand turbines. A wind farm may also be located offshore. Almost all large wind turbines have the same design — a horizontal axis wind turbine having an upwind rotor with 3 blades, attached to a nacelle on top of a tall tubular tower.

In a wind farm, individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage (often 34.5 kV) power collection system[31] and communications network. In general, a distance of 7D (7 times the rotor diameter of the wind turbine) is set between each turbine in a fully developed wind farm.[32] At a substation, this medium-voltage electric current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage electric power transmission system.[33]

Generator characteristics and stability

Induction generators, which were often used for wind power projects in the 1980s and 1990s, require reactive power for excitation, so electrical substations used in wind-power collection systems include substantial capacitor banks for power factor correction. Different types of wind turbine generators behave differently during transmission grid disturbances, so extensive modeling of the dynamic electromechanical characteristics of a new wind farm is required by transmission system operators to ensure predictable stable behavior during system faults (see wind energy software). In particular, induction generators cannot support the system voltage during faults, unlike steam or hydro turbine-driven synchronous generators.[citation needed]

Induction generators are not used in current turbines. Instead, most turbines use variable speed generators combined with either a partial or full-scale power converter between the turbine generator and the collector system, which generally have more desirable properties for grid interconnection and have low voltage ride through-capabilities.[34] Modern turbines use either doubly fed electric machines with partial-scale converters or squirrel-cage induction generators or synchronous generators (both permanently and electrically excited) with full-scale converters.[35]

Transmission systems operators will supply a wind farm developer with a grid code to specify the requirements for interconnection to the transmission grid. This will include the power factor, the constancy of frequency, and the dynamic behaviour of the wind farm turbines during a system fault.[36][37]

Offshore wind power

The world's second full-scale floating wind turbine (and first to be installed without the use of heavy-lift vessels), WindFloat, operating at rated capacity (2  MW) approximately 5  km offshore of Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal

Offshore wind power is wind farms in large bodies of water, usually the sea. These installations can utilize the more frequent and powerful winds that are available in these locations and have less visual impact on the landscape than land-based projects. However, the construction and maintenance costs are considerably higher.[38][39]

Siemens and Vestas are the leading turbine suppliers for offshore wind power. Ørsted, Vattenfall, and E.ON are the leading offshore operators.[40] As of November 2021, the Hornsea Wind Farm in the United Kingdom is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 1,218 MW.[41]

Collection and transmission network

In a wind farm, individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage (usually 34.5 kV) power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium-voltage electric current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage electric power transmission system. A transmission line is required to bring the generated power to (often remote) markets. For an offshore station, this may require a submarine cable. Construction of a new high voltage line may be too costly for the wind resource alone, but wind sites may take advantage of lines already installed for conventional fuel generation.[citation needed]

Wind power resources are not always located near to high population density. As transmission lines become longer the losses associated with power transmission increase, as modes of losses at lower lengths are exacerbated and new modes of losses are no longer negligible as the length is increased, making it harder to transport large loads over large distances.[42]

When the transmission capacity does not meet the generation capacity, wind farms are forced to produce below their full potential or stop running altogether, in a process known as curtailment. While this leads to potential renewable generation left untapped, it prevents possible grid overload or risk to reliable service.[43]

One of the biggest current challenges to wind power grid integration in some countries is the necessity of developing new transmission lines to carry power from wind farms, usually in remote lowly populated areas due to availability of wind, to high load locations, usually on the coasts where population density is higher.[44] Any existing transmission lines in remote locations may not have been designed for the transport of large amounts of energy.[45] In particular geographic regions, peak wind speeds may not coincide with peak demand for electrical power, whether offshore or onshore. A possible future option may be to interconnect widely dispersed geographic areas with an HVDC super grid.[46]

Wind power capacity and production

Growth trends

[30]
Log graph of global wind power cumulative capacity (Data:GWEC)
Wind energy generation by region over time[47]

In 2020, wind supplied almost 1600 TWh of electricity, which was over 5% of worldwide electrical generation and about 2% of energy consumption.[3][4] With over 100 GW added during 2020, mostly in China, global installed wind power capacity reached more than 730 GW.[5][4] But to help meet Paris Agreement goals to limit climate change analysts say it should expand much faster - by over 1% of electricity generation per year.[6] Expansion of wind power is being hindered by fossil fuel subsidies.[7][8][9]

The actual amount of electric power that wind can generate is calculated by multiplying the nameplate capacity by the capacity factor, which varies according to equipment and location. Estimates of the capacity factors for wind installations are in the range of 35% to 44%.[48]

Top 10 countries by added wind capacity in 2019[49][50]
ChinaUnited StatesUnited KingdomIndiaGermanySpainSwedenFranceMexicoArgentinaWind power by countryCircle frame.svg
  •   China: 26,155 MW (43.3%)
  •   United States: 9,143 MW (15.1%)
  •   United Kingdom: 2,393 MW (4.0%)
  •   India: 2,377 MW (3.9%)
  •   Germany: 2,189 MW (3.6%)
  •   Spain: 1,634 MW (2.7%)
  •   Sweden: 1,588 MW (2.6%)
  •   France: 1,336 MW (2.2%)
  •   Mexico: 1,281 MW (2.1%)
  •   Argentina: 931 MW (1.5%)
  •   Rest of the world: 11,324 MW (18.8%)
Top 10 countries by cumulative wind capacity in 2019[49]
ChinaUnited StatesGermanyIndiaSpainUnited KingdomFranceBrazilCanadaItalyWind power by countryCircle frame.svg
  •   China: 236,402 MW (36.3%)
  •   United States: 105,466 MW (16.2%)
  •   Germany: 61,406 MW (9.4%)
  •   India: 37,506 MW (5.8%)
  •   Spain: 25,224 MW (3.9%)
  •   United Kingdom: 23,340 MW (3.6%)
  •   France: 16,643 MW (2.6%)
  •   Brazil: 15,452 MW (2.4%)
  •   Canada: 13,413 MW (2.1%)
  •   Italy: 10,330 MW (1.6%)
  •   Rest of the world: 105,375 MW (16.2%)
Number of countries with wind capacities in the gigawatt-scale
10
20
30
40
2005
2010
2015
2019
Growing number of wind gigawatt-markets
  Countries above the 1-GW mark
  • 2018 Pakistan Egypt
    2017 Norway
    2016 Chile Uruguay South Korea
    2015 South Africa Finland
    2012 Mexico Romania
    2011 Brazil Belgium
    2010 Austria Poland Turkey
    2009 Greece
    2008 Republic of Ireland Australia Sweden
    2006 Canada France
    2005 United Kingdom China Japan Portugal
    2004 Netherlands Italy
    1999 Spain India
    1997 Denmark
    1995 Germany
    1986 United States
  Countries above the 10-GW mark
  • 2018 Italy
    2016 Brazil
    2015 Canada France
    2013 United Kingdom
    2009 India
    2008 China
    2006 United States Spain
    2002 Germany
  Countries above the 100-GW mark
  • 2019 United States
    2014 China                  

Capacity factor

Since wind speed is not constant, a wind farm's annual energy production is never as much as the sum of the generator nameplate ratings multiplied by the total hours in a year. The ratio of actual productivity in a year to this theoretical maximum is called the capacity factor. Online data is available for some locations, and the capacity factor can be calculated from the yearly output.[51][52] For example, the German nationwide average wind power capacity factor overall of 2012 was just under 17.5% (45,867 GW·h/yr / (29.9 GW × 24 × 366) = 0.1746),[53] and the capacity factor for Scottish wind farms averaged 24% between 2008 and 2010.[54]

Unlike fueled generating plants, the capacity factor is affected by several parameters, including the variability of the wind at the site and the size of the generator relative to the turbine's swept area. A small generator would be cheaper and achieve a higher capacity factor but would produce less electric power (and thus less profit) in high winds. Conversely, a large generator would cost more but generate little extra power and, depending on the type, may stall out at low wind speed. Thus an optimum capacity factor of around 40–50% would be aimed for.[55][56][better source needed]

A 2008 study released by the U.S. Department of Energy noted that the capacity factor of new wind installations was increasing as the technology improves, and projected further improvements for future capacity factors.[57] In 2010, the department estimated the capacity factor of new wind turbines in 2010 to be 45%.[58] The annual average capacity factor for wind generation in the US has varied between 29.8% and 34% during the period 2010–2015.[59]

Penetration

Country Year[60] Penetrationa
Denmark 2019 48%
Ireland 2020[61] 36.3%
Portugal 2019 27%
Germany 2019 26%
United Kingdom 2020[62] 24.8%
United States 2019 7%
aPercentage of wind power generation
over total electricity consumption
Share of primary energy from wind, 2019[63]

Wind energy penetration is the fraction of energy produced by wind compared with the total generation. Wind power's share of worldwide electricity usage at the end of 2018 was 4.8%,[64] up from 3.5% in 2015.[65][66]

There is no generally accepted maximum level of wind penetration. The limit for a particular grid will depend on the existing generating plants, pricing mechanisms, capacity for energy storage, demand management, and other factors. An interconnected electric power grid will already include reserve generating and transmission capacity to allow for equipment failures. This reserve capacity can also serve to compensate for the varying power generation produced by wind stations. Studies have indicated that 20% of the total annual electrical energy consumption may be incorporated with minimal difficulty.[67] These studies have been for locations with geographically dispersed wind farms, some degree of dispatchable energy or hydropower with storage capacity, demand management, and interconnected to a large grid area enabling the export of electric power when needed. Beyond the 20% level, there are few technical limits, but the economic implications become more significant. Electrical utilities continue to study the effects of large-scale penetration of wind generation on system stability and economics.[68][69][70]

A wind energy penetration figure can be specified for different duration of time but is often quoted annually. To obtain 100% from wind annually requires substantial long-term storage or substantial interconnection to other systems that may already have substantial storage. On a monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly basis—or less—wind might supply as much as or more than 100% of current use, with the rest stored, exported or curtailed. The seasonal industry might then take advantage of high wind and low usage times such as at night when wind output can exceed normal demand. Such industry might include the production of silicon, aluminum,[71] steel, or natural gas, and hydrogen, and using future long-term storage to facilitate 100% energy from variable renewable energy.[72][73] Homes can also be programmed to accept extra electric power on demand, for example by remotely turning up water heater thermostats.[74]

Variability

Wind turbines are typically installed in windy locations. In the image, wind power generators in Spain, near an Osborne bull.
Roscoe Wind Farm in West Texas

Wind power is variable, and during low wind periods, it must be replaced by other power sources. Transmission networks presently cope with outages of other generation plants and daily changes in electrical demand, but the variability of intermittent power sources such as wind power is more frequent than those of conventional power generation plants which, when scheduled to be operating, may be able to deliver their nameplate capacity around 95% of the time.

Electric power generated from wind power can be highly variable at several different timescales: hourly, daily, or seasonally. Annual variation also exists but is not as significant.[citation needed] Because instantaneous electrical generation and consumption must remain in balance to maintain grid stability, this variability can present substantial challenges to incorporating large amounts of wind power into a grid system. Intermittency and the non-dispatchable nature of wind energy production can raise costs for regulation, incremental operating reserve, and (at high penetration levels) could require an increase in the already existing energy demand management, load shedding, storage solutions, or system interconnection with HVDC cables.

Fluctuations in load and allowance for the failure of large fossil-fuel generating units require operating reserve capacity, which can be increased to compensate for the variability of wind generation.

Presently, grid systems with large wind penetration require a small increase in the frequency of usage of natural gas spinning reserve power plants to prevent a loss of electric power if there is no wind. At low wind power penetration, this is less of an issue.[75][76][77]

Utility-scale batteries are often used to balance hourly and shorter timescale variation,[78][79] but car batteries may gain ground from the mid-2020s.[80]

In the UK there were 124 separate occasions from 2008 to 2010 when the nation's wind output fell to less than 2% of installed capacity.[81] Wind power advocates argue that these periods of low wind can be dealt with by simply restarting existing power stations that have been held in readiness, or interlinking with HVDC.[82] Electrical grids with slow-responding thermal power plants and without ties to networks with hydroelectric generation may have to limit the use of wind power.[83]

Conversely, on particularly windy days, even with penetration levels of 16%, wind power generation can surpass all other electric power sources in a country. In Denmark, which had a power market penetration of 30% in 2013, over 90 hours, wind power generated 100% of the country's power, peaking at 122% of the country's demand at 2  am on 28 October.[84]

The combination of diversifying variable renewables by type and location, forecasting their variation, and integrating them with dispatchable renewables, flexible fueled generators, and demand response can create a power system that has the potential to meet power supply needs reliably. Integrating ever-higher levels of renewables is being successfully demonstrated in the real world:

In 2009, eight American and three European authorities, writing in the leading electrical engineers' professional journal, didn't find "a credible and firm technical limit to the amount of wind energy that can be accommodated by electric power grids". In fact, not one of more than 200 international studies, nor official studies for the eastern and western U.S. regions, nor the International Energy Agency, has found major costs or technical barriers to reliably integrating up to 30% variable renewable supplies into the grid, and in some studies much more.

— [85]
Seasonal cycle of capacity factors for wind and photovoltaics in Europe under idealized assumptions. The figure illustrates the balancing effects of wind and solar energy at the seasonal scale (Kaspar et al., 2019).[86]

Solar power tends to be complementary to wind.[87][88] On daily to weekly timescales, high-pressure areas tend to bring clear skies and low surface winds, whereas low-pressure areas tend to be windier and cloudier. On seasonal timescales, solar energy peaks in summer, whereas in many areas wind energy is lower in summer and higher in winter.[A][89] Thus the seasonal variation of wind and solar power tend to cancel each other somewhat.[86] Wind hybrid power systems are becoming more popular.[90]

Predictability

Wind power forecasting methods are used, but the predictability of any particular wind farm is low for short-term operation. For any particular generator, there is an 80% chance that wind output will change less than 10% in an hour and a 40% chance that it will change 10% or more in 5 hours.[91]

In summer 2021 wind power in the United Kingdom fell due to the lowest winds in seventy years[92] - smoothing peaks by producing hydrogen may help in future when wind has a larger share of generation.[93]

While the output from a single turbine can vary greatly and rapidly as local wind speeds vary, as more turbines are connected over larger and larger areas the average power output becomes less variable and more predictable.[34][94] Weather forecasting permits the electric-power network to be readied for the predictable variations in production that occur.[95]

Wind power hardly ever suffers major technical failures, since failures of individual wind turbines have hardly any effect on overall power, so that the distributed wind power is reliable and predictable,[96][unreliable source?] whereas conventional generators, while far less variable, can suffer major unpredictable outages.

Energy storage

Typically, conventional hydroelectricity complements wind power very well. When the wind is blowing strongly, nearby hydroelectric stations can temporarily hold back their water. When the wind drops they can, provided they have the generation capacity, rapidly increase production to compensate. This gives a very even overall power supply and virtually no loss of energy and uses no more water.

Alternatively, where a suitable head of water is not available, pumped-storage hydroelectricity or other forms of grid energy storage such as compressed air energy storage and thermal energy storage can store energy developed by high-wind periods and release it when needed. The type of storage needed depends on the wind penetration level – low penetration requires daily storage, and high penetration requires both short- and long-term storage – as long as a month or more.[citation needed] Stored energy increases the economic value of wind energy since it can be shifted to displace higher-cost generation during peak demand periods. The potential revenue from this arbitrage can offset the cost and losses of storage. Although pumped-storage power systems are only about 75% efficient, and have high installation costs, their low running costs and ability to reduce the required electrical base-load can save both fuel and total electrical generation costs.[97][98]

Fuel savings and energy payback

According to the American Wind Energy Association, production of wind power in the United States in 2015 avoided consumption of 280 million cubic metres (73 billion US gallons) of water and reduced CO2 emissions by 132 million metric tons, while providing US$7.3 bn in public health savings.[99][100]

The energy needed to build a wind farm divided into the total output over its life, Energy Return on Energy Invested, of wind power varies but averages about 20–25.[101][102] Thus, the energy payback time is typically around a year.

Economics

Onshore wind cost per kilowatt-hour between 1983 and 2017[103]

Onshore wind is an inexpensive source of electric power, competitive with or in many places cheaper than coal or gas plants.[104] According to BusinessGreen, wind turbines reached grid parity (the point at which the cost of wind power matches traditional sources) in some areas of Europe in the mid-2000s, and in the US around the same time. Falling prices continue to drive the Levelized cost down and it has been suggested that it has reached general grid parity in Europe in 2010, and will reach the same point in the US around 2016 due to an expected reduction in capital costs of about 12%.[105] In 2021 the CEO of Siemens Gamesa warned that increased demand for low-cost wind turbines combined with high input costs and high costs of steel result in increased pressure on the manufactures and decreasing profit margins.[106]

Electric power cost and trends

A turbine blade convoy passing through Edenfield in the U.K. (2008). Even longer 2-piece blades are now manufactured, and then assembled on-site to reduce difficulties in transportation.

Wind power is capital intensive but has no fuel costs.[107] The price of wind power is therefore much more stable than the volatile prices of fossil fuel sources.[108] However, the estimated average cost per unit of electric power must incorporate the cost of construction of the turbine and transmission facilities, borrowed funds, return to investors (including the cost of risk), estimated annual production, and other components, averaged over the projected useful life of the equipment, which may be more than 20 years. Energy cost estimates are highly dependent on these assumptions so published cost figures can differ substantially.

The presence of wind energy, even when subsidized, can reduce costs for consumers (€5 billion/yr in Germany) by reducing the marginal price, by minimizing the use of expensive peaking power plants.[109]

The cost has reduced as wind turbine technology has improved. There are now longer and lighter wind turbine blades, improvements in turbine performance, and increased power generation efficiency. Also, wind project capital expenditure costs and maintenance costs have continued to decline.[110]

In 2021 a Lazard study of unsubsidized electricity said that wind power levelized cost of electricity continues to fall but more slowly than before. The study estimated new wind-generated electricity cost from $26 to $50/MWh, compared to new gas power from $45 to $74/MWh. The median cost of fully deprecated existing coal power was $42/MWh, nuclear $29/MWh and gas $24/MWh. The study estimated offshore wind at around $83/MWh. Compound annual growth rate was 4% per year from 2016 to 2021, compared to 10% per year from 2009 to 2021.[111]

Incentives and community benefits

Turbine prices have fallen significantly in recent years due to tougher competitive conditions such as the increased use of energy auctions, and the elimination of subsidies in many markets.[112] As of 2021 subsidies are still often given to offshore wind. But they are generally no longer necessary for onshore wind in countries with even a very low carbon price such as China, provided there are no competing fossil fuel subsidies.[113]

Secondary market forces provide incentives for businesses to use wind-generated power, even if there is a premium price for the electricity. For example, socially responsible manufacturers pay utility companies a premium that goes to subsidize and build new wind power infrastructure. Companies use wind-generated power, and in return, they can claim that they are undertaking strong "green" efforts.[114] Wind projects provide local taxes, or payments in place of taxes and strengthen the economy of rural communities by providing income to farmers with wind turbines on their land.[115][116]

Small-scale wind power

A small Quietrevolution QR5 Gorlov type vertical axis wind turbine on the roof of Colston Hall in Bristol, England. Measuring 3 m in diameter and 5 m high, it has a nameplate rating of 6.5 kW.

Small-scale wind power is the name given to wind generation systems with the capacity to produce up to 50 kW of electrical power.[117] Isolated communities, that may otherwise rely on diesel generators, may use wind turbines as an alternative. Individuals may purchase these systems to reduce or eliminate their dependence on grid electric power for economic reasons, or to reduce their carbon footprint. Wind turbines have been used for household electric power generation in conjunction with battery storage over many decades in remote areas.[118]

Examples of small-scale wind power projects in an urban setting can be found in New York City, where, since 2009, several building projects have capped their roofs with Gorlov-type helical wind turbines. Although the energy they generate is small compared to the buildings' overall consumption, they help to reinforce the building's 'green' credentials in ways that "showing people your high-tech boiler" cannot, with some of the projects also receiving the direct support of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.[119]

Grid-connected domestic wind turbines may use grid energy storage, thus replacing purchased electric power with locally produced power when available. The surplus power produced by domestic microgenerators can, in some jurisdictions, be fed into the network and sold to the utility company, producing a retail credit for the microgenerators' owners to offset their energy costs.[120]

Off-grid system users can either adapt to intermittent power or use batteries, photovoltaic, or diesel systems to supplement the wind turbine.[121] Equipment such as parking meters, traffic warning signs, street lighting, or wireless Internet gateways may be powered by a small wind turbine, possibly combined with a photovoltaic system, that charges a small battery replacing the need for a connection to the power grid.[122]

Distributed generation from renewable resources is increasing as a consequence of the increased awareness of climate change. The electronic interfaces required to connect renewable generation units with the utility system can include additional functions, such as active filtering to enhance the power quality.[123]

Environmental effects

Livestock grazing near a wind turbine.[124]

The environmental impact of wind power is minor compared to that of fossil fuels. According to the IPCC, in assessments of the life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions of energy sources, wind turbines have a median value of 12 and 11 (gCO2eq/kWh) for offshore and onshore turbines, respectively.[125][126] Compared with other low carbon power sources, wind turbines have some of the lowest global warming potential per unit of electrical energy generated.[127][better source needed]

Onshore wind farms can have a significant visual impact and impact on the landscape.[128] Their network of turbines, access roads, transmission lines, and substations can result in "energy sprawl".[12] Due to a very low surface power density and specific spacing requirements, wind farms typically need to cover more land and be more spread out than other power stations.[11][129] However, the land between the turbines and roads can still be used for agriculture.[130][131] As well as needing to be spread over more land, they also need to be built away from dense population.[132] Wind farms are typically built in wild and rural areas, which can lead to "industrialization of the countryside".[13] A report by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland concluded that wind farms harmed tourism in areas known for natural landscapes and panoramic views.[133] Wind turbines also generate noise. At a residential distance of 300 metres (980 ft) this may be around 45 dB, which is slightly louder than a refrigerator. At 1.5 km (1 mi) distance they become inaudible.[134][135] There are anecdotal reports of negative health effects from noise on people who live very close to wind turbines.[136] Peer-reviewed research has generally not supported these claims.[137][138][139]

Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are the greatest impacts of wind farms on wildlife.[12] The scale of the ecological impact may[140] or may not[141] be significant, depending on specific circumstances. In addition, these problems can be mitigated if proper monitoring and mitigation strategies are implemented.[142] Prevention and mitigation of wildlife fatalities, and protection of peat bogs,[143] affect the siting and operation of wind turbines. Another effect of wind farms on wildlife is avian mortality. Thousands of birds, including rare species, have been killed by the blades of wind turbines,[144] though wind turbines contribute relatively insignificantly to anthropogenic avian mortality. Wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible for between 0.3 and 0.4 bird deaths per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh. In 2009, for every bird killed by a wind turbine in the US, nearly 500,000 were killed by cats and another 500,000 by buildings.[145] In comparison, conventional coal fired generators contribute significantly more to bird mortality, by incineration when caught in updrafts of smoke stacks and by poisoning with emissions byproducts (including particulates and heavy metals downwind of flue gases)

Before 2019, many wind turbine blades had been made of fiberglass with designs that only provided a service lifetime of 10 to 20 years.[146] Given the available technology, as of February 2018, there was no market for recycling these old blades,[147] and they are commonly disposed of in landfills. Because blades are designed to be hollow, they take up a large volume compared to their mass. Landfill operators have therefore started requiring operators to crush the blades before they can be landfilled.[146]

The United States Air Force and Navy have expressed concern that siting large wind turbines near bases "will negatively impact radar to the point that air traffic controllers will lose the location of aircraft."[148]

Politics

Central government

Part of the Seto Hill Windfarm in Japan.

Nuclear power and fossil fuels are subsidized by many governments, and wind power and other forms of renewable energy are also often subsidized. It has been suggested that a subsidy shift would help to level the playing field and support growing energy sectors, namely solar power, wind power, and biofuels.[149] History shows that no energy sector was developed without subsidies.[149]

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) (2011), energy subsidies artificially lower the price of energy paid by consumers, raise the price received by producers or lower the cost of production. "Fossil fuels subsidies costs generally outweigh the benefits. Subsidies to renewables and low-carbon energy technologies can bring long-term economic and environmental benefits".[150]

Following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, Germany's federal government is working on a new plan for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy commercialization, with a particular focus on offshore wind farms. Under the plan, large wind turbines will be erected far away from the coastlines, where the wind blows more consistently than it does on land, and where the enormous turbines won't bother the inhabitants. The plan aims to decrease Germany's dependence on energy derived from coal and nuclear power plants.[151]

Public opinion

Surveys of public attitudes across Europe and in many other countries show strong public support for wind power.[152][153][154] About 80% of EU citizens support wind power.[155]

Bakker et al. (2012) discovered in their study that when residents did not want the turbines located by them their annoyance was significantly higher than those "that benefited economically from wind turbines the proportion of people who were rather or very annoyed was significantly lower".[156]

Although wind power is a popular form of energy generation, the construction of onshore or near offshore wind farms is sometimes opposed for aesthetic reasons, noise or impact on tourism.[157][158]

Which should be increased in Scotland?[159]

In a 2007 survey including wind power in Canada, 89% of respondents said that using renewable energy sources like wind or solar power was positive for Canada because these sources were better for the environment. Only 4 percent considered using renewable sources as negative since they could be unreliable and expensive.[160] Another 2007 survey concluded that wind power was the alternative energy source most likely to gain public support for future development in Canada, with only 16% opposed to this type of energy. By contrast, 3 out of 4 Canadians opposed nuclear power developments.[161]

In other cases, there is direct community ownership of wind farm projects. The hundreds of thousands of people who have become involved in Germany's small and medium-sized wind farms demonstrate such support there.[162]

A 2010 Harris Poll reflects the strong support for wind power in Germany, other European countries, and the United States.[152][153][163]

Opinion on increase in number of wind farms, 2010 Harris Poll[164][unreliable source?]
U.S. Great
Britain
France Italy Spain Germany
% % % % % %
Strongly oppose 3 6 6 2 2 4
Oppose more than favour 9 12 16 11 9 14
Favour more than oppose 37 44 44 38 37 42
Strongly favour 50 38 33 49 53 40

In China, Shen et al. (2019) discover that Chinese city-dwellers may be somewhat resistant to building wind turbines in urban areas, with a surprisingly high proportion of people citing an unfounded fear of radiation as driving their concerns.[165] The central Chinese government rather than scientists is better suited to address this concern. Also, the study finds that like their counterparts in OECD countries, urban Chinese respondents are sensitive to direct costs and wildlife externalities. Distributing relevant information about turbines to the public may alleviate resistance.

Community

Wind turbines such as these, in Cumbria, England, have been opposed for a number of reasons, including aesthetics, by some sectors of the population.[166][167]

Many wind power companies work with local communities to reduce environmental and other concerns associated with particular wind farms.[168][169][170] In other cases there is direct community ownership of wind farm projects. Appropriate government consultation, planning and approval procedures also help to minimize environmental risks.[152][171][172] Some may still object to wind farms[173] but, according to The Australia Institute, their concerns should be weighed against the need to address the threats posed by climate change and the opinions of the broader community.[174]

In America, wind projects are reported to boost local tax bases, helping to pay for schools, roads, and hospitals. Wind projects also revitalize the economy of rural communities by providing steady income to farmers and other landowners.[115]

In the UK, both the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have expressed concerns about the effects on the rural landscape caused by inappropriately sited wind turbines and wind farms.[175][176]

A panoramic view of the United Kingdom's Whitelee Wind Farm with Lochgoin Reservoir in the foreground.

Some wind farms have become tourist attractions. The Whitelee Wind Farm Visitor Centre has an exhibition room, a learning hub, a café with a viewing deck and also a shop. It is run by the Glasgow Science Centre.[177]

In Denmark, a loss-of-value scheme gives people the right to claim compensation for loss of value of their property if it is caused by proximity to a wind turbine. The loss must be at least 1% of the property's value.[178]

Despite this general support for the concept of wind power in the public at large, local opposition often exists and has delayed or aborted a number of projects.[179][180][181] For example, there are concerns that some installations can negatively affect TV and radio reception and Doppler weather radar, as well as produce excessive sound and vibration levels leading to a decrease in property values.[182] Potential broadcast-reception solutions include predictive interference modeling as a component of site selection.[183][184] A study of 50,000 home sales near wind turbines found no statistical evidence that prices were affected.[185]

While aesthetic issues are subjective and some find wind farms pleasant and optimistic, or symbols of energy independence and local prosperity, protest groups are often formed to attempt to block new wind power sites for various reasons.[173][186][187]

This type of opposition is often described as NIMBYism,[188] but research carried out in 2009 found that there is little evidence to support the belief that residents only object to renewable power facilities such as wind turbines as a result of a "Not in my Back Yard" attitude.[189]

Geopolitics

It has been argued that expanding the use of wind power will lead to increasing geopolitical competition over critical materials for wind turbines such as rare earth elements neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. But this perspective has been criticised for failing to recognise that most wind turbines do not use permanent magnets and for underestimating the power of economic incentives for expanded production of these minerals.[190]

Turbine design

Typical components of a wind turbine (gearbox, rotor shaft and brake assembly) being lifted into position

Wind turbines are devices that convert the wind's kinetic energy into electrical power. The result of over a millennium of windmill development and modern engineering, today's wind turbines are manufactured in a wide range of horizontal axis and vertical axis types. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging for auxiliary power. Slightly larger turbines can be used for making small contributions to a domestic power supply while selling unused power back to the utility supplier via the electrical grid. Arrays of large turbines, known as wind farms, have become an increasingly important source of renewable energy and are used in many countries as part of a strategy to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Wind turbine design is the process of defining the form and specifications of a wind turbine to extract energy from the wind.[191] A wind turbine installation consists of the necessary systems needed to capture the wind's energy, point the turbine into the wind, convert mechanical rotation into electrical power, and other systems to start, stop, and control the turbine.

In 1919 the German physicist Albert Betz showed that for a hypothetical ideal wind-energy extraction machine, the fundamental laws of conservation of mass and energy allowed no more than 16/27 (59%) of the kinetic energy of the wind to be captured. This Betz limit can be approached in modern turbine designs, which may reach 70 to 80% of the theoretical Betz limit.[192][193]

The aerodynamics of a wind turbine are not straightforward. The airflow at the blades is not the same as the airflow far away from the turbine. The very nature of how energy is extracted from the air also causes air to be deflected by the turbine. This affects the objects or other turbines downstream, which is known as Wake effect. Also, the aerodynamics of a wind turbine at the rotor surface exhibit phenomena that are rarely seen in other aerodynamic fields. The shape and dimensions of the blades of the wind turbine are determined by the aerodynamic performance required to efficiently extract energy from the wind, and by the strength required to resist the forces on the blade.[194]

In addition to the aerodynamic design of the blades, the design of a complete wind power system must also address the design of the installation's rotor hub, nacelle, tower structure, generator, controls, and foundation.[195]

History

Charles F. Brush's windmill of 1888, used for generating electric power.

Wind power has been used as long as humans have put sails into the wind. King Hammurabi's Codex (reign 1792 - 1750 BC) already mentioned windmills for generating mechanical energy.[196] Wind-powered machines used to grind grain and pump water, the windmill and wind pump, were developed in what is now Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by the 9th century.[197][198] Wind power was widely available and not confined to the banks of fast-flowing streams, or later, requiring sources of fuel. Wind-powered pumps drained the polders of the Netherlands, and in arid regions such as the American mid-west or the Australian outback, wind pumps provided water for livestock and steam engines.

The first windmill used for the production of electric power was built in Scotland in July 1887 by Prof James Blyth of Anderson's College, Glasgow (the precursor of Strathclyde University).[199] Blyth's 10 metres (33 ft) high cloth-sailed wind turbine was installed in the garden of his holiday cottage at Marykirk in Kincardineshire, and was used to charge accumulators developed by the Frenchman Camille Alphonse Faure, to power the lighting in the cottage,[199] thus making it the first house in the world to have its electric power supplied by wind power.[200] Blyth offered the surplus electric power to the people of Marykirk for lighting the main street, however, they turned down the offer as they thought electric power was "the work of the devil."[199] Although he later built a wind turbine to supply emergency power to the local Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary, and Dispensary of Montrose, the invention never really caught on as the technology was not considered to be economically viable.[199]

Across the Atlantic, in Cleveland, Ohio, a larger and heavily engineered machine was designed and constructed in the winter of 1887–1888 by Charles F. Brush.[201] This was built by his engineering company at his home and operated from 1886 until 1900.[202] The Brush wind turbine had a rotor 17 metres (56 ft) in diameter and was mounted on an 18 metres (59 ft) tower. Although large by today's standards, the machine was only rated at 12 kW. The connected dynamo was used either to charge a bank of batteries or to operate up to 100 incandescent light bulbs, three arc lamps, and various motors in Brush's laboratory.[203]

With the development of electric power, wind power found new applications in lighting buildings remote from centrally generated power. Throughout the 20th century parallel paths developed small wind stations suitable for farms or residences. The 1973 oil crisis triggered the investigation in Denmark and the United States that led to larger utility-scale wind generators that could be connected to electric power grids for remote use of power. By 2008, the U.S. installed capacity had reached 25.4 gigawatts, and by 2012 the installed capacity was 60 gigawatts.[204] Today, wind-powered generators operate in every size range between tiny stations for battery charging at isolated residences, up to gigawatt-sized offshore wind farms that provide electric power to national electrical networks.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ California is an exception

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External links

  • Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)
  • World Wind Energy Association (WWEA)
  • Dynamic Data Dashboard from the International Energy Agency
  • Current global map of wind power density