1.power derived from the wind (as by windmills)
definition of Wikipedia
chose immatérielle (fr)[Classe...]
energy, free energy[Hyper.]
wind power (n.)
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using: wind turbines to make electricity, windmills for mechanical power, windpumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships.
A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines which are connected to the electric power transmission network. Offshore wind farms can harness more frequent and powerful winds than are available to land-based installations and have less visual impact on the landscape but construction costs are considerably higher. Small onshore wind facilities are used to provide electricity to isolated locations and utility companies increasingly buy back surplus electricity produced by small domestic wind turbines.
Although very consistent from year to year, wind power has significant variation over shorter timescales. The intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when used to supply up to 20% of total electricity demand, but as the proportion increases, a need to upgrade the grid, and a lowered ability to supplant conventional production can occur. Power management techniques such as having excess capacity storage, dispatchable backing supplies (usually natural gas), storage such as pumped-storage hydroelectricity, exporting and importing power to neighboring areas or reducing demand when wind production is low, can greatly mitigate these problems.
Wind power, as an alternative to fossil fuels, is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation and uses little land. Any effects on the environment are generally less problematic than those from other power sources. As of 2010 wind energy production was over 2.5% of worldwide power, growing at more than 25% per annum. The overall cost per unit of energy produced is similar to the cost for new coal and natural gas installations. Although wind power is a popular form of energy generation, the construction of wind farms is not universally welcomed.
Sailboats and sailing ships have been using wind power for thousands of years, and architects have used wind-driven natural ventilation in buildings since similarly ancient times. The use of wind to provide mechanical power came somewhat later in antiquity. The windwheel of the Greek engineer Heron of Alexandria in the 1st century AD is the earliest known instance of using a wind-driven wheel to power a machine.
The first practical windmills were in use in Iran at least by the 9th century and possibly as early as the 7th century. The use of windmills became widespread use across the Middle East and Central Asia, and later spread to China and India. By 1000 AD, windmills were used to pump seawater for salt-making in China and Sicily. Windmills were used extensively in Northwestern Europe to grind flour from the 1180s, and windpumps were used to drain land for agriculture and for building. Early immigrants to the New World brought the technology with them from Europe.
In the US, the development of the "water-pumping windmill" was the major factor in allowing the farming and ranching of vast areas otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. Windpumps contributed to the expansion of rail transport systems throughout the world, by pumping water from water wells for steam locomotives. The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America.
In July 1887, a Scottish academic, Professor James Blyth, built a cloth-sailed wind turbine in the garden of his holiday cottage in Marykirk and used the electricity it produced to charge accumulators which he used to power the lights in his cottage. His experiments culminated in a UK patent in 1891. In the winter of 1887/8 US inventor Charles F. Brush produced electricity using a wind powered generator which powered his home and laboratory until about 1900. In the 1890s, the Danish scientist and inventor Poul la Cour constructed wind turbines to generate electricity, which was used to produce hydrogen and Oxygen by electrolysis and a mixture of the two gases was stored for use as a fuel. La Cour was the first to discover that fast rotating wind turbines with fewer rotor blades were the most efficient in generating electricity and in 1904 he founded the Society of Wind Electricians.
By the mid-1920s, 1 to 3-kilowatt wind generators developed by companies such as Parris-Dunn and Jacobs Wind-electric found widespread use in the rural areas of the midwestern Great Plains of the US but by the 1940s the demand for more power and the coming of the electrical grid throughout those areas made these small generators obsolete.
During the 1920s the first vertical axis wind turbine was built by Frenchman George Darrieus and in 1931 a 100 kW precursor to the modern horizontal wind generator was used in Yalta, in the USSR. In 1956 Johannes Juul, a former student of la Cour, built a 200 kW, three-bladed turbine at Gedser in Denmark, which influenced the design af many later turbines.
In 1975 the United States Department of Energy funded a project to develop utility-scale wind turbines. The NASA wind turbines project built thirteen experimental turbines which paved the way for much of the technology used today. Since then, turbines have increased greatly in size with the Enercon E-126 capable of delivering up to 7 MW. Wind turbine production has expanded to many countries and wind power is expected to grow worldwide in the twenty-first century.
Wind is the movement of air across the surface of the Earth, from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. The surface of the Earth is heated unevenly by the Sun, depending on factors such as the angle of incidence of the sun's rays at the surface (which differs with latitude and time of day) and whether the land is open or covered with vegetation. Also, large bodies of water, such as the oceans, heat up and cool down slower than the land. The heat energy absorbed at the Earth's surface is transferred to the air directly above it and, as warmer air is less dense than cooler air, it rises above the cool air to form areas of high pressure and thus pressure differentials. The rotation of the Earth drags the atmosphere around with it causing turbulence. These effects combine to cause a constantly varying pattern of winds across the surface of the Earth.
The total amount of economically extractable power available from the wind is considerably more than present human power use from all sources. Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, carried out a "top down" calculation on how much wind energy there is, starting with the incoming solar radiation that drives the winds by creating temperature differences in the atmosphere. He concluded that somewhere between 18 TW and 68 TW could be extracted. Cristina Archer and Mark Z. Jacobson presented a "bottom-up" estimate, which unlike Kleidon's are based on actual measurements of wind speeds, and found that there is 1700 TW of wind power at an altitude of 100 metres over land and sea. Of this, "between 72 and 170 TW could be extracted in a practical and cost-competitive manner".
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 the frequency of wind speeds at a particular location, a probability distribution function is often fit to the observed data. Different locations will have different wind speed distributions. The Weibull model closely mirrors the actual distribution of hourly 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.
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location used for production of electricity. A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles, but the land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. 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 three 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 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.
Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the US. As of November 2010, the Roscoe Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in the world at 781.5 MW, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center (735.5 MW). As of November 2010, the Thanet Wind Farm in the UK is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 300 MW, followed by Horns Rev II (209 MW) in Denmark.
There are many large wind farms under construction including; The London Array (offshore) (1000 MW), BARD Offshore 1 (400 MW), Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm (317 MW), Lincs Wind Farm (offshore, (270 MW)Shepherds Flat Wind Farm (845 MW), Clyde Wind Farm (548 MW), Greater Gabbard wind farm (500 MW), Macarthur Wind Farm (420 MW), Shepherds Flat Wind Farm (845 MW), Lower Snake River Wind Project (343 MW) and Walney Wind Farm (367 MW).
Induction generators, often used for wind power, require reactive power for excitation so 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 modelling of the dynamic electromechanical characteristics of a new wind farm is required by transmission system operators to ensure predictable stable behaviour during system faults (see: Low voltage ride through). In particular, induction generators cannot support the system voltage during faults, unlike steam or hydro turbine-driven synchronous generators. Doubly fed machines generally have more desirable properties for grid interconnection. 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 power factor, constancy of frequency and dynamic behavior of the wind farm turbines during a system fault.
Offshore wind power refers to the construction of wind farms in large bodies of water to generate electricity. These installations can utilise the more frequent and powerful winds that are available in these locations and have less aesthetic impact on the landscape than land based projects. However, the construction and the maintenance costs are considerably higher. Currently, offshore wind farms are at least 3 times more expensive than onshore wind farms of the same nominal power but these costs are expected to fall as the industry matures.
Siemens and Vestas are the leading turbine suppliers for offshore wind power. DONG Energy, Vattenfall and E.ON are the leading offshore operators. As of October 2010, 3.16 GW of offshore wind power capacity was operational, mainly in Northern Europe. According to BTM Consult, more than 16 GW of additional capacity will be installed before the end of 2014 and the UK and Germany will become the two leading markets. Offshore wind power capacity is expected to reach a total of 75 GW worldwide by 2020, with significant contributions from China and the US.
Worldwide there are now many thousands of wind turbines operating, with a total nameplate capacity of 238,351 MW as of end 2011. World wind generation capacity more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006, doubling about every three years. The United States pioneered wind farms and led the world in installed capacity in the 1980s and into the 1990s. In 1997 German installed capacity surpassed the U.S. and led until once again overtaken by the U.S. in 2008. China has been rapidly expanding its wind installations in the late 2000s and passed the U.S. in 2010 to become the world leader.
At the end of 2011, worldwide nameplate capacity of wind-powered generators was 238 gigawatts (GW), growing by 41 GW over the preceding year. 2010 data from the World Wind Energy Association, an industry organization states that wind power now has the capacity to generate 430 TWh annually, which is about 2.5% of worldwide electricity usage. Between 2005 and 2010 the average annual growth in new installations was 27.6 percent. Wind power market penetration is expected to reach 3.35 percent by 2013 and 8 percent by 2018. Several countries have already achieved relatively high levels of penetration, such as 28% of stationary (grid) electricity production in Denmark (2011), 19% in Portugal (2011), 16% in Spain (2011), 14% in Ireland (2010) and 8% in Germany (2011). As of 2011, 83 countries around the world were using wind power on a commercial basis.
Europe accounted for 48% of the world total wind power generation capacity in 2009. In 2010, Spain became Europe's leading producer of wind energy, achieving 42,976 GWh. Germany held the top spot in Europe in terms of installed capacity, with a total of 27,215 MW as of 31 December 2010.
In 2010, more than half of all new wind power was added outside of the traditional markets in Europe and North America. This was largely from new construction in China, which accounted for nearly half the new wind installations (16.5 GW).
Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) figures show that 2007 recorded an increase of installed capacity of 20 GW, taking the total installed wind energy capacity to 94 GW, up from 74 GW in 2006. Despite constraints facing supply chains for wind turbines, the annual market for wind continued to increase at an estimated rate of 37%, following 32% growth in 2006. In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has become one of the important players in the energy markets, with the total value of new generating equipment installed in 2007 reaching €25 billion, or US$36 billion.
Although the wind power industry was affected by the global financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, a BTM Consult five year forecast up to 2013 projects substantial growth. Over the past five years the average growth in new installations has been 27.6 percent each year. In the forecast to 2013 the expected average annual growth rate is 15.7 percent. More than 200 GW of new wind power capacity could come on line before the end of 2013. Wind power market penetration is expected to reach 3.35 percent by 2013 and 8 percent by 2018.
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. Typical capacity factors are 20–40%, with values at the upper end of the range in particularly favourable sites.[nb 1] Online data is available for some locations and the capacity factor can be calculated from the yearly output.
Unlike fueled generating plants the capacity factor is affected by several parameters, including the variability of the wind at the site but also the generator size. A small generator would be cheaper and achieve a higher capacity factor but would produce less electricity (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 would be aimed for, which is usually around 20–35%.
In a 2008 study released by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the capacity factor achieved by the U.S. wind turbine fleet is shown to be increasing as the technology improves. The capacity factor achieved by new wind turbines in 2004 and 2005 reached 36%.
Wind energy penetration refers to the fraction of energy produced by wind compared with the total available generation capacity. 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 storage or demand management and other factors. An interconnected electricity 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 plants. Studies have indicated that 20% of the total annual electrical energy consumption may be incorporated with minimal difficulty. 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 electricity when needed. Beyond the 20 percent level, there are few technical limits, but the economic implications become more significant. Electrical utilities continue to study the effects of large (20% or more) scale penetration of wind generation on system stability and economics.
A wind energy penetration figure can be specified for different durations of time. On an annual basis, as of 2011, few grid systems have penetration levels above five percent: Denmark – 26%, Portugal – 17%, Spain – 15%, Ireland – 14%, and Germany – 9%. For the U.S. in 2011, the penetration level was estimated at 2.9%.
Electricity generated from wind power can be highly variable at several different timescales: hourly, daily, or seasonally. However, wind is always in constant supply somewhere, making it a dependable source of energy because it will never expire or become extinct. Annual variation also exists, but is not as significant. Like other electricity sources, wind energy must be scheduled. Wind power forecasting methods are used, but predictability of wind plant output remains low for short-term operation. 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. 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. At low levels of wind penetration, fluctuations in load and allowance for failure of large generating units require reserve capacity that can also compensate for variability of wind generation. Wind power can be replaced by other power sources during low wind periods. Transmission networks must already cope with outages of generation plant and daily changes in electrical demand. Systems with large wind capacity components may need more spinning reserve (plants operating at less than full load).
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity or other forms of grid energy storage can store energy developed by high-wind periods and release it when 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; the cost of storage may add 25% to the cost of any wind energy stored but it is not envisaged that this would apply to a large proportion of wind energy generated. For example, in the UK, the 2 GW Dinorwig pumped storage plant evens out electrical demand peaks, and allows base-load suppliers to run their plants more efficiently. 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.
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. Studies by Graham Sinden (2009) suggest that, in practice, the variations in thousands of wind turbines, spread out over several different sites and wind regimes, are smoothed, rather than intermittent. As the distance between sites increases, the correlation between wind speeds measured at those sites, decreases.
In particular geographic regions, peak wind speeds may not coincide with peak demand for electrical power. In the US states of California and Texas, for example, hot days in summer may have low wind speed and high electrical demand due to the use of air conditioning. Some utilities subsidize the purchase of geothermal heat pumps by their customers, to reduce electricity demand during the summer months by making air conditioning up to 70% more efficient; widespread adoption of this technology would better match electricity demand to wind availability in areas with hot summers and low summer winds. Another option is to interconnect widely dispersed geographic areas with an HVDC "Super grid". In the U.S. it is estimated that to upgrade the transmission system to take in planned or potential renewables would cost at least $60 billion.
Solar power tends to be complementary to wind. 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 typically peaks in summer, whereas in many areas wind energy is lower in summer and higher in winter. Thus the intermittencies of wind and solar power tend to cancel each other somewhat. In 2007 the Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology of the University of Kassel pilot-tested a combined power plant linking solar, wind, biogas and hydrostorage to provide load-following power around the clock, entirely from renewable sources.
A 2006 International Energy Agency forum presented costs for managing intermittency as a function of wind-energy's share of total capacity for several countries, as shown in the table on the right. Three reports on the wind variability in the UK issued in 2009, generally agree that variability of wind needs to be taken into account, but it does not make the grid unmanageable. The additional costs, which are modest, can be quantified.
A report on Denmark's wind power noted that their wind power network provided less than 1% of average demand on 54 days during the year 2002. 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. 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.
Conversely, on particularly windy days, even with penetration levels of 16%, wind power generation can surpass all other electricity sources in a country. In Spain, on 8 November 2009 wind power production reached the highest percentage of electricity production till then, with wind farms covering 53% of the total demand.
The capacity credit of wind is estimated by determining the capacity of conventional plants displaced by wind power, whilst maintaining the same degree of system security,. However, the precise value is irrelevant since the main value of wind (in the UK, worth 5 times the capacity credit value) is its fuel and CO2 savings. According to a 2007 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, interconnecting ten or more wind farms can allow an average of 33% of the total energy produced to be used as reliable, baseload electric power, as long as minimum criteria are met for wind speed and turbine height.
The estimated average cost per unit incorporates the cost of construction of the turbine and transmission facilities, borrowed funds, return to investors (including cost of risk), estimated annual production, and other components, averaged over the projected useful life of the equipment, which may be in excess of twenty years. Energy cost estimates are highly dependent on these assumptions so published cost figures can differ substantially. In 2004, wind energy cost a fifth of what it did in the 1980s, and some expected that downward trend to continue as larger multi-megawatt turbines were mass-produced. As of 2012[update] capital costs for wind turbines are substantially lower than 2008–2010 but are still above 2002 levels. A 2011 report from the American Wind Energy Association stated, "Wind's costs have dropped over the past two years, in the range of 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour recently.... about 2 cents cheaper than coal-fired electricity, and more projects were financed through debt arrangements than tax equity structures last year.... winning more mainstream acceptance from Wall Street's banks.... Equipment makers can also deliver products in the same year that they are ordered instead of waiting up to three years as was the case in previous cycles.... 5,600 MW of new installed capacity is under construction in the United States, more than double the number at this point in 2010. Thirty-five percent of all new power generation built in the United States since 2005 has come from wind, more than new gas and coal plants combined, as power providers are increasingly enticed to wind as a convenient hedge against unpredictable commodity price moves."
A British Wind Energy Association report gives an average generation cost of onshore wind power of around 3.2 pence (between US 5 and 6 cents) per kW·h (2005). Cost per unit of energy produced was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the US for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MW·h, coal at $53.10/MW·h and natural gas at $52.50. Similar comparative results with natural gas were obtained in a governmental study in the UK in 2011. Other sources in various studies[specify] have estimated wind to be more expensive than other sources. A 2009 study on wind power in Spain by Gabriel Calzada Alvarez of King Juan Carlos University concluded that each installed MW of wind power led to the loss of 4.27 jobs, by raising energy costs and driving away electricity-intensive businesses. The U.S. Department of Energy found the study to be seriously flawed, and the conclusion unsupported. The presence of wind energy, even when subsidised, can reduce costs for consumers (€5 billion/yr in Germany) by reducing the marginal price by minimising the use of expensive 'peaker plants'.
Wind energy in many jurisdictions receives financial or other support to encourage its development. Wind energy benefits from subsidies in many jurisdictions, either to increase its attractiveness, or to compensate for subsidies received by other forms of production which have significant negative externalities.
In the US, wind power receives a tax credit for each kW·h produced; at 1.9 cents per kW·h in 2006, the credit has a yearly inflationary adjustment. Another tax benefit is accelerated depreciation. Many American states also provide incentives, such as exemption from property tax, mandated purchases, and additional markets for "green credits". Countries such as Canada and Germany also provide incentives for wind turbine construction, such as tax credits or minimum purchase prices for wind generation, with assured grid access (sometimes referred to as feed-in tariffs). These feed-in tariffs are typically set well above average electricity prices. The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 contains extensions of credits for wind, including microturbines.
Secondary market forces also 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. In the US the organization Green-e monitors business compliance with these renewable energy credits.
Compared to the environmental impact of traditional energy sources, the environmental impact of wind power is relatively minor. Wind power consumes no fuel, and emits no air pollution, unlike fossil fuel power sources. The energy consumed to manufacture and transport the materials used to build a wind power plant is equal to the new energy produced by the plant within a few months. While a wind farm may cover a large area of land, many land uses such as agriculture are compatible, with only small areas such as turbine foundations and infrastructure made unavailable for use.
Wind farms need to be located in windy areas for greater efficiency, which often leads them to be placed on the top of ridges and hills, where they are particularly visible. This leads some to complain that they 'ruin the landscape'.
Reports have been made on the mortality of birds and bats as a result of wind turbines. Major factors which can alter the number of fatalities include the placement of the turbines, the number of birds in the area, and the migration paths of the birds. The scale of the ecological impact may or may not be significant, depending on specific circumstances. Environmental assessment of proposed wind farm projects can mitigate or prevent wildlife fatalities and help protect fragile habitats such as peat bogs The magnets used in some types of wind turbine's generators contain rare-earth minerals, specifically neodymium and the mining of rare earth minerals has environmental impacts. While being fairly common, neodymium is spread across the globe and major reserves are very rare. 
There have been numerous reports of those living close to wind turbines suffering adverse health effects from noise, vibration and shadow flicker, and in 2009 New York Paediatrician, Dr. Nina Pierpont, claimed to have identified an effect for which she coined the term "Wind Turbine Sydrome". An industry commissioned review of the current research on the possible health effects of wind turbine noise and vibration reported in 2010 that, "the sound (including subaudible sound) is not unique, and does not pose a risk to human health. Although the sound may cause ‘annoyance’ for some people, this in itself is not an adverse health effect." The findings of the report have, however, been questioned on a number of grounds including; that the reviewing group did not include an epidemiologist, usually a given for assessing potential environmental health hazards, and that there was no clear description of the methods the researchers used to search for available research, nor how they rated the quality of the research. In October 2010 The Society for Wind Vigilance held an international symposium concerning the subject.  A study on wind farm noise published in 2012 by The US state of Massachusetts reported that people are annoyed by sound from wind turbines at far lower sound levels than they are by noises from railroads, aircraft, or road traffic. The study found the percentage of respondents who found noise levels highly annoying rose quickly as sound levels increased above about 37dbA (about the level of a conversation).
Fossil fuels are subsidized by many governments, and wind power and other forms of renewable energy are also often subsidized. For example a 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute assessed the size and structure of U.S. energy subsidies over the 2002–2008 period. The study estimated that subsidies to fossil-fuel based sources amounted to approximately $72 billion over this period and subsidies to renewable fuel sources totalled $29 billion. In the United States, the federal government has paid US$74 billion for energy subsidies to support R&D for nuclear power ($50 billion) and fossil fuels ($24 billion) from 1973 to 2003. During this same timeframe, renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency received a total of US$26 billion. 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. History shows that no energy sector was developed without subsidies.
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". In November 2011, an IEA report entitled Deploying Renewables 2011 said "subsidies in green energy technologies that were not yet competitive are justified in order to give an incentive to investing into technologies with clear environmental and energy security benefits". The IEA's report disagreed with claims that renewable energy technologies are only viable through costly subsidies and not able to produce energy reliably to meet demand.
In the US, the wind power industry has recently increased its lobbying efforts considerably, spending about $5 million in 2009 after years of relative obscurity in Washington. By comparison, the US nuclear industry alone spent over $650 million on its lobbying efforts and campaign contributions during a single ten year period ending in 2008.
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.
Commenting on the EU's 2020 renewable energy target, Economist, Professor Dieter Helm, is critical of how the costs of wind power are cited by lobbyists. Helm also says that the problem of intermittent supply will probably lead to another dash-for-gas or dash-for-coal in Europe, possibly with a negative impact on energy security. A House of Lords Select Committee report (2008) on renewable energy in the UK reported a "concern over the prospective role of wind generated and other intermittent sources of electricity in the UK, in the absence of a break-through in electricity storage technology or the integration of the UK grid with that of continental Europe".
Surveys of public attitudes across Europe and in many other countries show strong public support for wind power. About 80 percent of EU citizens support wind power. In Germany, where wind power has gained very high social acceptance, hundreds of thousands of people have invested in citizens' wind farms across the country and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises are running successful businesses in a new sector that in 2008 employed 90,000 people and generated 8 percent of Germany's electricity.
In Spain, with some exceptions, there has been little opposition to the installation of inland wind parks. However, the projects to build offshore parks have been more controversial. In particular, the proposal of building the biggest offshore wind power production facility in the world in southwestern Spain in the coast of Cádiz, on the spot of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. has been met with strong opposition who fear for tourism and fisheries in the area, and because the area is a war grave.
In a survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies in October 2007, 89 per cent 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 per cent considered using renewable sources as negative since they can be unreliable and expensive. According to a Saint Consulting survey in April 2007, 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.
A 2003 survey of residents living around Scotland's 10 existing wind farms found high levels of community acceptance and strong support for wind power, with much support from those who lived closest to the wind farms. The results of this survey support those of an earlier Scottish Executive survey 'Public attitudes to the Environment in Scotland 2002', which found that the Scottish public would prefer the majority of their electricity to come from renewables, and which rated wind power as the cleanest source of renewable energy. A survey conducted in 2005 showed that 74% of people in Scotland agree that wind farms are necessary to meet current and future energy needs. When people were asked the same question in a Scottish Renewables study conducted in 2010, 78% agreed. The increase is significant as there were twice as many wind farms in 2010 as there were in 2005. The 2010 survey also showed that 52% disagreed with the statement that wind farms are "ugly and a blot on the landscape". 59% agreed that wind farms were necessary and that how they looked was unimportant.
Many wind power companies work with local communities to reduce environmental and other concerns associated with particular wind farms. 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. Some may still object to wind farms 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This type of opposition is often described as NIMBYism, 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.
Small-scale wind power is the name given to wind generation systems with the capacity to produce up to 50 kW of electrical power. 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 electricity for economic reasons, or to reduce their carbon footprint. Wind turbines have been used for household electricity generation in conjunction with battery storage over many decades in remote areas.
Grid-connected domestic wind turbines may use grid energy storage, thus replacing purchased electricity 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.
Off-grid system users can either adapt to intermittent power or use batteries, photovoltaic or diesel systems to supplement the wind turbine. 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.
In locations near or around a group of high-rise buildings, wind shear generates areas of intense turbulence, especially at street-level. The risks associated with mechanical or catastrophic failure have thus plagued urban wind development in densely populated areas, rendering the costs of insuring urban wind systems prohibitive. Moreover, quantifying the amount of wind in urban areas has been difficult, as little is known about the actual wind resources of towns and cities.
A Carbon Trust study into the potential of small-scale wind energy in the UK, published in 2010, found that small wind turbines could provide up to 1.5 terawatt hours (TW·h) per year of electricity (0.4% of total UK electricity consumption), saving 0.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2) emission savings. This is based on the assumption that 10% of households would install turbines at costs competitive with grid electricity, around 12 pence (US 19 cents) a kW·h. A report prepared for the UK's government-sponsored Energy Saving Trust in 2006, found that home power generators of various kinds could provide 30 to 40 per cent of the country's electricity needs by 2050.
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 the active filtering to enhance the power quality.
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