Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wind power, a look on the bright side.

Climate change is a rapidly evolving problem, the more closely we look the less we like what we see. As emissions need to be dropping precipitously and dramatically they are rising slowly and steadily.

On the bright side there are several trends that anyone in the environmental movement would have to be blind not to see. Decarbonising society is on the agenda; organisations are being setup that have never before existed and projects are capacity building. We are near the beginning of what promises to be a race of competing exponential growth curves.

"We are near the beginning of what promises to be a race of competing exponential growth curves."
Growth in the global economy and growth in the solutions to climate change; technological,
social and structural solutions. One technology that is yet to boom and simply must over the next very few years is carbon capture and storage, another more successful example is wind power.

Looking at a breakdown of the worlds' current energy production you could be forgiven for thinking that wind power will only ever be a marginal player as it only currently produces a tinge fraction of the worlds energy. You would be very wrong. Wind power is now 10% the cost that it was in the mid 1980's, fossil fuel prices are going up, and climate change is a real threat--we are looking at a perfect storm.

The diagram bellow gives some indication of why the cost reductions have been so dramatic and why huge growth is more likely than not.

Currently standing at 60 GW the Global Wind Energy Council are aiming to reach 1,254 GW (12%) of installed capacity by 2020. Are they mad or do they stand a chance? Well last year there was 15GW of growth in the sector; a 25% growth rate is not a bad place to start. In fact if a 25% growth rate persisted then we would have 60 * 1.25^14 = 1364 GW by 2020.

The Chinese government have just increased their target for renewable energy to 10% by 2020--this will only be revised up, the EU are being presurised to make 15-25% renewable energy target by 2020 and an American research project looking at20% in the long termis currently running. The fact that wind power is actually the cheapest for of power in several areas means that this hugely ambitious target stands a chance and would represent a huge and notable achievement in decarbonising the global economy, albeit one of the many such steps required.

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At 10:57 PM, Blogger Tom Gray said...

Great post, and you are right, things do look bright for wind. The next 20 years should be exciting times.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association


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