Europe Strong On Wind Generated Electricity
With a long tradition of Dutch windmills, you might think Europe would be leading the world in wind-powered generation of electricity. For many years, they actually lagged. But now the continent is working toward a world leadership position.
In 2008 and 2009, nearly half of all new electrical generating capacity built in Europe has been wind-powered, more than half if you include other forms of renewable energy. What's more, over the next decade, the nations of Europe are on track to generate a full ten percent of their total power needs with wind-power generation, which, added to their current five percent, means that fully 15 percent of electricity in Europe will come from clean, renewable, sustainable wind-power.
If the pattern continues, by 2050 as much as half of all electricity generated in Europe may derive from wind.
According to Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, the trend in Europe is to replace older coal- and natural gas-fired power plants by wind-powered generators and various forms of solar power, which can include both solar cells that generate electricity directly from sunlight and solar-powered plants that use the sun's energy to turn conventional generators.
Kjaer says that almost 200,000 people are currently employed in building and maintaining European wind-power systems, and that employment will more than double by the end of the coming decade.
A big reason is that the European Union has adopted new legislation requiring every member nation to meet a specific target for renewable energy production by 2020.
Wind is popular in Europe as an energy source for electrical generation because it's currently the cheapest source of "alternative" power, significantly less expensive that solar cells. The new generation of windmills is attractive, quiet, relatively benign to birds, and capable of very high kilowatt output. Although building power-producing windmills over the water is still more expensive than building them on land, the trend in Europe is clearly toward more and more offshore placement. To facilitate this, the European Union is developing its power grid to support the transfer of electrical energy from where it is likely to be produced, on and near the North Sea, to where it is likely to be consumed, in the major cities and industrial centers scattered throughout the continent. The EU is also providing a stable market for wind-powered generating equipment by making plans and commitments relatively far ahead.
Much of the impetus for this movement toward wind-powered electricity began with Germany, Spain, and Denmark, which saw the benefits of wind-power 20 or 30 years ago. Today they not only enjoy large amounts of wind-powered electricity, companies based in those countries manufacture and sell much of the equipment used throughout the world.
According to Kjaer, our planet is experienced a major shift in the world's economies, from dominance by the countries that either had resources or controlled resources (including fossil fuels), to an increasing dominance by the countries that develop and deploy new technology, and can therefore most effectively export that technology to the rest of the world.