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About Wind Energy / Why Wind Energy

wind power capacity world

You’ve probably noticed that wind is super abundant on our planet (funny video on this topic). Some report that wind in windy locations on or near land can power the world 6 to 15 times over. It is also the least-expensive energy source in many or even most regions now, and this is even without taking important health costs of coal and natural gas into account.


In this wind energy guide, you will find a lot more information one wind, broken down into these 6 categories (with each on its own page):

  1. Introduction to Wind (this page)
  2. Installed Wind Power Capacity (organized by country, by GDP, per capita, and more)
  3. Offshore Wind Power Capacity & Projected Growth
  4. Projected Wind Power Growth Worldwide & in Leading Countries
  5. Cost of Wind Power
  6. Why Wind Intermittency is Not a Big Deal

We want this source to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. You can help make it so by posting better/more current data in the comments below.

California solar cost of solar

Intro to Wind

While we’ve been harvesting energy from wind for several decades, it is only in the last few years — as the world has become more concerned about global climate change — that we’ve increased installation of wind turbines to the point where wind has become a noticeable contributor to our energy mix. In 2010, installed wind capacity reached 197 gigawatts (GW) and produced about 2.5% of the world’s electricity.

Also in 2010, China surpassed the US in the total amount of installed wind capacity to grab the number one ranking. But number one is perhaps not as impressive when one takes into account the population size and GDP of China (as well as the US). More impressive, when one accounts for country size, are: Denmark, which gets 28.1% of its power from wind (compared to China’s 1-2% and the US’ 3-4%). For more along these lines, much more annual and individual country wind installation information can be found on page 2.

World Wind Map

Wind is on the cusp of becoming a major source of electricity around the world. Wind is widely available around the world (see the map above from Global Energy Network Institute, click to enlarge) and its recent rapid growth is expected to continue, since it is already the cheapest or one of the cheapest sources for new electricity all around the world and its costs are projected to keep falling.

Community Etiquette:

We want this and following clean energy guides to be the most up-to-date, the most accurate, and the most comprehensive source of all things ‘new grid’ around. And we want your help making them so. So, please chime in if you’ve got updated or additional information to share. And, of course, please follow these basic community etiquette guidelines:

1) Don’t be rude in discussions with others.
2) If you want to comment, please look to see if someone has already started a thread that would be appropriate for your input. Post your comment there. It will make things much easier for whomever does the rewrite.

More On Wind:

On the following pages, we have sections on:

Upcoming sections will include:

  • Electricity Storage & Transmission
  • Effects of Wind Turbines (on animals, humans, and the environment)
  • More?

 




  • Paul M.

    About those colossal “WIND Machines”….

    Im ALL for renewable green tech like SOLAR / WIND / GEOTHERMAL / OCEAN ENERGY and similar, but one of the most promoted and funded forms of WIND power in the World is probably one of the WORST ever for people, animals and the environment….

    Heres some unpleasant, rarely published (and almost NEVER broadcast) FACTS that proponents and promoters of those gigantic “wind machines” either havent yet LEARNED about, or just plain IGNORE….

    - THOUSANDS of birds are violently KILLED every year by the massive blades of these gigantic wind machines….and theres NO WAY to prevent it because any type of bird-protecting shroud on the blades (even using the very lightest high-tech materials) would be too heavy for the multi-ton steel mast to support.

    - There isnt a SINGLE person on Earth who wants to continually SEE these colossal machines where they live….and because of their extreme size, theres NO WAY to hide ‘em or disguise ‘em. But of course, the manufacturers, corporate Washington lobbyists and investors of these machines ALL live very, very far away from these ugly giants.

    - The ENERGY EFFICIENCY of these gigantic machines has got to be one of the biggest CORPORATE LIES than about any other form of energy….even on windy days, many of the rotors of these huge machines in the many “wind farms” across the U.S. arent even MOVING at times (or very slowly)….i’ve seen it myself several times, as thousands of others obviously have….

    - And as for the DESIGN EFFICIENCY of these mega-machines ?….NO, apparently BIGGER is NOT BETTER with these things….theres NO WAY to increase the number of blades, because ANY extra weight would cause it to soon FALL OVER (instantly totally destroying itself, and thus necessitating replacement, PLUS the $$$$$$ cost of LONG-DISTANCE DELIVERY of one of these behemoths).

    - The PRICE for just ONE of these mega-machines is OVER A $MILLION….and a SINGLE service call to FIX one (which is probably OFTEN) is probably at least SEVERAL THOUSAND DOLLARS….How on Earth that can be “cost efficient” (without MASSIVE federal subsidies from taxpayers) is plainly a MASSIVELY SUCCESSFUL CORPORATE LIE.

    So WHAT should be done about these mega-machines ?….Philips, GE, and the other super corporations (that are being subsidized by taxpayers) who make and promote these INSANE mega-machines should instead be REPLACING ‘em with SMALL (barrel-size to shed-size) MAGLEV WIND MACHINES (with rotors that rotate to super high-velocity on energy-efficient frictionless magnets), which China and other asian countries are already starting to do, mounting these along the top edges of tall office and residential buildings (which America and other countries have THOUSANDS of)….Just another example that proves “SMALLER TECH is BETTER TECH” * !

    These cost a TINY FRACTION of a mega-machine, are much cheaper to service or replace, and can also be easily HIDDEN with decorative panel vanes, and with the wind-intake sides net-shrouded to protect birds….So with the above said, my only question is….

    WHY, on a website on RENEWABLE ENERGY, isnt ANYONE here saying ANYTHING about ANY of the above ???!!!

    ( * Another “SMALLER TECH that is BETTER TECH” : Non-Stop POD MONORAIL (such as the SkyTran system, now being co-developed by NASA)….compared to it, the wonderful Disneyland Monorail system looks like a slow antiquated old dinosaur….but that is my next important GREEN TECH topic i will share here soon.)

  • Qadir panahi

    This report is so good but it will be better that the report considers annually tables from wind power’s situations in the world (especial in top ten countries) and shows the parameters(average annually wind speed,full load hours per year,capacity factor and etc ) and wind power’s cost associated with them that’s researcher can use from.

  • benoit
    • Bob_Wallace

      Please, don’t drop links with out some explanation of why we should bother looking.

      And – do you see any performance data? Or only claims?

      New, astonishing wind turbine designs appear from time to time. They seem to be ideas with no data to back up the claim and fade away.

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  • Seuss Buck

    Thanks for highlighting the latest updates in wind energy generator and usage. These details will surely encourage many homeowners to install residential wind turbines to produce and use 100% clean, green and renewable energy over a longer period of time.
    http://www.alekogreenenergy.com/Wind_Turbines_s/1814.htm

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  • Nyle Evans

    give us a twitter feed

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      huh? we’ve got a twitter button in the top right side of our website.

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  • Tony

    Great article about the non-issue of wind intermittency. I agree wholly with what Chris writes and I have had the very same discussion with many utilities when negotiating PPA’s where the “unreliability” of wind is used as an excuse to negotiate lower prices. The main argument being that the utility needs spinning reserve to be available for the event that wind drops. My standard question to them is what do they do in the event that their largest fossil fuel unit unexpectedly goes out of service. Isn’t it necessary as a utility to keep at least the same capacity as the largest unit in reserve in case of a breakdown on one or more of their units to ensure that the system doesn’t collapse?
    Normally a utility does have reserve for just that event and so the argument of extra spinning reserve being necessary to deal with wind intermittency is a non-argument as the statistical chances that a) Your largest unit goes out of service and b) the wind drops at the same time is very small. The chances that such a double event occurs can be calculated and based on that calculation you can quantify a price for the wind intermittency.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks for the comment — concise and very useful. And, yes, that whole argument (absurdly widespread in the media and in comment threads) should really be tossed in the trash by now. Working on it…

  • http://www.facebook.com/syedrafay.zahoori Syed Rafay Zahoori

    GREAT……………..

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  • Matthias Heinze

    Wind energy has environmental cost exceeding that of PV – because wind is more then just inertia it is humidity, thermal mass etc. We see that in the Mojave were temp extremes are creeping upward idependent of what happens elsewhere. Hard to believe but geography (or the contours of the earth) makes climate.
    Yes the Leaf is efficient, unless it gets cold. At -25 degC the Leaf will have to heat the interior and provide tractive power at much reduced battery capacity and power. An ICE car will operate at very high efficiency, because the heat can be used. Not to say that electric cars are not viable – in some markets they are filling a very big niche. In cold climates they do need gas or diesel heaters. BTW the electric motor efficiency is meaningless by itself (you can also use a ICE, generator, inverter(s) and electric motors to power the wheels (instead of a mechanical transmission). Even that can be efficient in a holistic way – i.e. if the purpose is to do more then just move the vehicle. The problem is as always the chemical storage efficiency. Still, those batteries can do more, electrics are here to stay.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Are you trying to claim that wind turbines are changing the temperatures are changing temperatures in the Mojave?

      If you’ve lived somewhere that experiences -25C/-13F temperatures you probably know about block heaters and putting light bulbs under the hood of gasmoblies. In the same way, plugging in EVs in very cold conditions solves the cold weather problem You heat up the batteries and passenger compartment with grid electricity rather than battery power.

      Once EVs start running on battery power heat is created. Car manufactures are moving to heat pumps which will allow waste heat from batteries to be used for passenger comfort.

  • Erika

    Haw expensive are they ?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Wind turbines?

      The are the cheapest way to make electricity.

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  • E D

    And Wind Power Technology just keeps getting better and better – and I don’t know how you can beat this one; http://www.windstrument.com

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  • Design1950

    Help! I need to find personal wind turbines for houses in one of the windiest places on Earth called Windy Cove, 5 minutes from downtown Palm Springs….Suggestions?

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  • Ivan S. Bell

    While driving through Indiana there are always a lot of tower blades not turning even on windy days….why? Is any of the generated electricity stored for later use? If so please explain. Are they turned off much like the fossel plants alter output when more or less electricity is needed?

    • L33t4im

      Wind turbines have specific thresholds to which they operate at particular heights. This means that although it may be ‘windy’ out, the wind speed has not reached the equivalent threshold to turn the blades, and therefore no energy is being harnessed. In other examples, utilities shutdown and lock the wind turbines from turning during extreme winds to avoid inadvertent damage to the wind turbines. Also, wind speed is variable depending on the height above the Earth’s surface (generally faster winds higher up). This is why you see huge wind turbines that are massively tall with huge blades in order to better harness the wind potential. Conversely, smaller, shorter wind turbines operate at slower speeds closer to the ground to maximize harnessing the energy from the wind at those heights. For more information, check out the NREL website or take a look at the first slide from a NREL report (link below).

      http://wind.nrel.gov/public/library/small/pdfs/slideshow/lg_vs_small.pdf

    • Bob_Wallace

      There’s not a lot of storage available yet. It could be that there’s more potential supply than demand and some turbines are parked/curtailed. That certainly happens in the spring in places that have a lot of hydro on line. Lots of available water and low spring demand.

      Or there could be a transmission problem. It doesn’t always make sense to build transmission lines capable of carrying 100% of a wind farm’s maximum production if that high output level is seldom reached. Transmission lines might be sized to carry 70% or 80% of maximum production which could mean that 20% to 30% of the turbines are curtailed.

      You can also see wind turbines shut down because they are sited in a bird migratory route and it’s “that time of year”.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      in addition to the above great answers, some older turbines are retired but left sanding. not sure if that’s the case in your situation or the above potential answers.

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  • James Van Damme

    The tone of the article makes me wonder if it was written by a Russian gas company.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Gosh, that’s dumb.

    Sure, it might be cheaper to meet near term CO2 goals by investing in gas plants.

    But those are only short term goals, not where the UK needs to get in the long term. Putting their money in wind now means that they will have generation that helps them get to a zero CO2 grid.

    Go the route you like and at some point the UK will have to spend those dollars a second time and park their CO2 emitting gas plants.

  • Scott Crook

    Questions on wind research: 1) currently we see towers with a single generator powered by a single wind turbine. After watching the video of an out of control windmill spinning itself to pieces I wondered, “Is there enough potential energy to support an array of generators on a single turbine tower? Arrays with transmission variability to engage the other generators ONLY when there is sufficient force available. 2) Have there been experiments in funneling to concentrate the force? Kinda like a passive ramjet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Multiple turbines on the same tower. I believe that turbulence would be a problem. Last I read turbines are being located further apart as we learn more about how they interact with the wind.

      Wind funnels, yes. At least one company is working on a design which uses a cowl to concentrate more wind on the blades. I haven’t heard how that’s working out. They made lots of optimistic predictions and have gone fairly quite as far as I know.

      I suspect that design would be best for an area with ‘small wind’ and an area that never gets strong storms. You can furl the blades on a turbine if the wind is extreme, turn their leading edges directly into the wind. It would be hard to reduce the exposed surface area of the cowl.

    • L33t4im

      Your question in 1) is basic. Yes, there IS enough potential wind energy to support arrays, but in doing so you would compromise the integrity of the support structure, thus requiring an immense amount of research to prove or disprove the applicability of wind turbine arrays. It is also important to note that the air behind wind turbines is extremely turbulent (imagine vortecies and other turbulent fluid flow pheonomena) and not suitable for another wind turbine to harness. Wind turbines operate most efficiently when the wind is laminar (stable, smooth, predictable). Therefore, the 1st wind turbine would work as intended, but the rest of the wind turbines in the array would have reduced efficiencies from the turbulence generated by the 1st wind turbine.

      Your question in 2) has been looked at and studied for a while now. It only makes sense that the mass flow rate of air entering a funnel has to equal the mass flow rate coming out of the funnel. Don’t confuse this with the speed of the fluid. Basically (A1)(C1) = (A2)(C2), where A1 is the wind speed before entering the funnel, A2 is the wind speed exiting the funnel. C1 is the cross-sectional area of the entrance to the funnel, whereas C2 is the cross-sectional area of the exit of the funnel. This means that the fluid flowing through the funnel will be accelerated by the restriction of the space to move through.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, great article with clarity. Perhaps you could send to Stuart Varney.

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  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    On land wind turbines, especially from the Texas panhandle up through the Dakotas could provide much more energy that we currently use in the entire USA. And land based wind turbines are lower cost to build and to maintain than water based turbines.

    Wind turbines can be put on farm land, using just 1% of the area, leaving the rest completely available for farming — and each turbine could produce $300,000 worth of electricity per year.

    This creates what Lester Brown has aptly dubbed PIMBY — PUT It in My Backyard. Iowa is ramping up wind power, and the rest of us should, too. Wind power scales up very well. Solar scales down very well — PV panels on the roof power A/C system when and where it is needed. This is the peak use of electricity.

    We also have wave power, and tidal power, and drilled geothermal, and biomass i.e. methane from sewage and farm waste and biodiesel from sustainable non-food crops like jatropha. Three companies are already building wave power machines; one of them is in New Jersey. Their systems can generate 10MW from an array of 60 buoys that cover just about 10 acres. I’ll bet that ocean based wind turbines can have this sort of power generator built into their base.

    Renewable energy can provide at least 10X more power than we need, and they will last as long as the earth does — about 1 Billion years. No fuel, no pollution, no spills, no explosions, no radiation, no military support, no climate change — what’s not to like?

    Neil

  • SmithJim1961

    I’d like to comment about the cost of powering an electric car. The real advantage of electric cars is the relatively high efficiency of electric motors. The efficiency of electric motors is roughly 90%. The most efficient gasoline engine today that I know of is the Toyota Prius at 38% thermal efficiency. The EPA has come up with a metric for comparing the efficiency of electric cars. It’s called MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). A gallon of gasoline contains 33.7 kW-hr of chemical energy. (kiloWatt-hours. The “W” is capitalized because a Watt is a unit named after a person) kW-hr is the standard unit used for electrical energy. A Nissan Leaf is rated at 99 MPGe. In other words, the Leaf will travel 99 miles on 33.7 kW-hr of electrical energy. The cost of electricity in my neck of the woods is $0.08 (8 cents) per kW-hr. That comes out to $2.70 per “gallon” of electricity. The reason some people say that an electric car is equivalent to $0.70 per gallon is that gasoline cars don’t get 99 MPG. Assuming the average gasoline car gets 25 MPG that “gallon” of electricity is used by an electric car four times more efficiently than a gallon of gasoline is used in a gasoline engine car. $2.70 divided by 4 equals $0.72.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks for the comment!

      That’s a great paragraph to share with more eyes — I think I’ll post it as a guest/reader post… interested in adding anything, or changing anything?

    • Jojo

      Wow, electricity in your neck of the woods is cheap. I pay 18.5c/kW-hr.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Are you paying a flat rate or has time of use (TOU) billing come to your area?

        Once smart meters become standard and TOU billing the way things work you’re probably going to find that your late night electricity is cheap.

        And you may find yourself considering rooftop solar to help cut your peak hour costs.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The Leaf uses roughly 0.35kWh/mile. At $0.08/kWh that’s $0.028/mile.

      It’s the equivalent of a 50MPG Prius burning $1.40/gallon gas.

      It’s the equivalent of an US average 25MPG car burning $0.70/gallon gas.

      I’m seeing a lot of Leaf owners post well under 0.35kWh/mile Perhaps they are more conservative driver.

      With us spending a billion dollars a day to import oil so that we can drive using $4/gallon gas it takes no genius to understand that spending a few billion dollars to get the price of EVs down, their range up, and rapid charging stations along our highways makes incredible sense.

      If we spent a trillion dollars in order to put Americans into EVs we’d earn that money back in less than five years.

      And we wouldn’t be fighting any more oil wars.

      • Michael Hopkins

        As a reference, my Wife and I currently get 5.5mi/kWh pretty regularly in the LEAF. That’s .181kWh/mi if my math is right.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That’s really low, Michael. What sort of driving conditions do you have that let you get away with using such a small amount?

          Almost never need heat/AC, fairly level ground, little highway speed driving would be my guess…

          • Michael Hopkins

            We’re in Salt Lake City, so we do have some hills to contend with, and we run the heat or A/C as needed, but a big thing there is running the environmental controls off shore power and then keeping everything sealed tight to maintain that conditioning as long as possible. My Wife primarily drives the LEAF to and from work, about 12 miles each way, and if she’s running late will take the freeway but she tries to stick to the surface streets as much as possible. And, believe it or not, we’ve found running in drive mode provides better results than eco, so long as you’re very throttle aware. It allows for more gliding without the regen braking being cranked to high as it is in eco. When I’m driving, I’m really comfortable slapping the shifter between eco and drive as needed, so I can get the best regen when coming to a stop and then not having to fight to accelerate again.

    • Chance

      @ SmithJim1961 – Watch your back! If you make too much sense they will come after you.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WLQ3DW3BYPDT22B5PUW2A3VYRM Robert

    Solar should cost less than coal in 2025. Costs are dropping faster than wind and the fuel is free and more consistent than wind. I predict $40-50/MWh in 2025.

    • Anonymous

      Well, solar costs less than coal in many places now. And will cost less in most places in a few years (not even taking externalities into account), by most estimates. Long before 2025.

    • James Van Damme

      It won’t take much to explode in popularity among homeowners, because we buy at retail (and pay tax on it) from generating plants miles away. If I can make my own to run my air conditioner, I’m not paying the utility company or the tax man.

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  • Dan Petit

    This is the perfect site to study wind energy. Years back, when you could select all your google news topics, I had set all of the topic categories to one aspect of wind energy or another. It seemed like there was an ongoing battle with their algorithm to try to get me to view (study) something else in addition to wind energy. (LOL). When I wand to study something, I mean business in accomplishing the study of it. Thanks for your very well presented site.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks!

      I go through dozens of sites and hundreds of articles a day to try to keep on top of wind energy news, technology, policy,.. and hope to improve this resource page as time goes on. Let us know if you have any suggestions! (This page actually came about due largely to a reader’s suggestions and work.)

  • Hisham898

    I am unable to open the pages on why intermittency is not a big deal from an iPad.your blog is my favourite resource for alt energy resources!

    • Anonymous

      Really?

      It may be a temporary issue. Give it another shot (or 3)

      If it still doesn’t work, you can drop a comment in the contact form linked at the top of the page and I can email it to you.

    • Anonymous

      Jobs died.

      The power of the Force fades….

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  • Peter Staudt-Fischbach

    The molten salt is storing thermal energy, perfect for thermal solar power plants because the first stage of tapping the power of the sun is thermal there. It would be very inefficient though for storage of electric energy in the case of wind power. You would lose a tremendous amount of energy because of pure physics (Carnot cycle). Pumped storage plants would be much more efficient (energy as well as cost) in this case.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the note/explanation!

    • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

      Actually efficiencies are not a problem. We are pretty much 100% efficient at turning electricity into heat. Making heat is the one thing physics lets us do real efficiently. If a combination of strong winds and low demand frequently pushes electricity prices towards zero then it could make sense to use that excess electricity to heat molten salts. This could be done at a stand alone molten salt thermal storage facillity or one that is part of a solar thermal plant.

      Carnot cycle inefficiencies aren’t a problem as they apply to the heating steam and making turbines spin end of things and are the same no matter where the heat originally comes from.

    • CB

      Pumped storage is absolutely the way to go… if you have a few tons of water and a height differential nearby. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of places where you can do this.

      Thermal salt storage, however, can be done wherever you can dig a pit. Efficiencies getting the energy back out are low compared to pumped storage and especially batteries, but the system will last forever, unlike battery storage, and there is also no toxic waste problem.

      If you used the waste heat to process garbage, sewage and ag waste into biochar and fuel gas, you could go carbon-negative very easily, and generate non-petroleum based fertiliser and transportation fuel for applications that absolutely require chemical energy.

      You could also use it to maximise efficiency of existing dirty power plants and ease the transition to renewable electric power… The possible down side is the cost of insulation, pumping mechanism corrosion and heating elements. The rest is pretty inexpensive, and there are no technical hurdles to any of it.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There are more than enough places to install pump-up.

        In the US we’ve got ~80,000 existing dams. We use ~2,500 for hydro generation. At least 10% of the others have sufficient head and are reasonably close to transmission lines.

        We could also use abandoned mines. Some are very deep and already flooded at lower levels. Build a reservoir at the mine exit level and install pump/turbine. There are probably transmission lines already installed which carried power to the mines.

        Finally there’s closed loop. Build one reservoir high, one low. Fill the system with springtime water. One company is working on building closed loop in Utah. Another company is working on drilled well closed loop. Use a tunnel boring machine to create a lower, underground reservoir close to a river.

        Sodium-ion batteries are not toxic. Third party tests have demonstrated >5,000 100% DoD cycles and it is expected that cycle life will increase to 20,000.

        If you’re storing waste heat in salt for future electricity generation, then that might make sense. But using electricity to heat the salt, don’t see that becoming affordable.

        • CB

          I think it’s rather a question of setting the cost of carbon emissions too. If you want to look at the long-term, we have to be sequestering carbon, not merely ceasing to produce it.

          The pumped storage option is excellent where there are existing, appropriate sites. I live in California, where available water is drying up and there are already problems with delta smelt being sucked into pump systems to send drinking water down to LA. If you were to multiply those pump systems by the thousands of times you’d need to buffer current energy consumption appropriately, I think it would cause quite catastrophic damage to the environment.

          Creating our own reservoirs would be inordinately expensive. If you take a naturally-occurring pumped reservoir system like Ludington, for example, 27 billion gallons of water gets you 15 gigawatt-hours of energy. To run a city like San Francisco reliably for 10 days with no power, you’d need 10 times that amount, which would require the construction of a holding facility for 270 billion gallons of water! It’s just not feasible.

          In contrast, with molten salt thermal storage, you could achieve the same thing with around a 200 million gallon salt storage unit (around the size of a city block)… and that’s using generation figures from solar concentrators which are limited by the sun as to how much heat you can add.

          Basically, molten salt in practise is at least 1000 times more energy dense than your average pumped storage system. If you don’t have to build the containment and there aren’t any ecological or seismic concerns, it’s a no-brainer to use pumped storage, but otherwise, it’s just nonsense.

          • Grids

            The equivalent of energy density variation between pumped storage plants is head. The Helms pumped storage plant already used by PG&E has 1,600 feet of head – pretty good for getting a lot of power out of the water. A new project proposed down in the Tehachapi area would have up to 3,000 feet of head – enormous power per unit of water, allowing for smaller reservoirs, which are of course artificial and have no impact on waterways. Nobody’s proposing ten days of storage. If you have enough to balance the wind and solar, minimizing use of fossil, you’re going to be good to go. BTW, there are more than 75 pumped storage projects under consideration in the U.S. today. Many are not developable, but the best ones will make a powerful difference (no pun intended). intended).

          • linda

            I am new to this site and found it while trying to investigate home wind power distributors in Nicaragua – I live on a huge lake and the wind energy is maximum.
            Any information or assistance on how to install a home system that has a very economical set up cost would be welcome. Thanks

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d caution you to be aware that there a number of small turbine manufacturers who promise very much more than they deliver. Several fancy looking units, (especially vertical axis, eggbeater looking) turbines that just don’t produce much electricity for the money.

            Paul has a very good section – Household Size Wind Energy

            http://www.wind-works.org/cms/index.php?id=1

            And here’s a commercial site which seems to be helpful…

            http://www.windenergy.com/

            Finally, here’s a magazine site which is highly informative and trustworthy…

            http://homepower.com/home/wind turbine

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  • CB

    Has anyone heard anything about storing wind energy in molten salts the way they do with solar concentrators?

    It seems to me you could cover all human power needs with some wind turbines, long-distance high voltage lines and a great pile of molten salt you could use to generate baseload power even when the wind wasn’t blowing… My calculations are that you could get somewhere around 40% efficiency end-to-end with the bulk of the inefficiency being in the electrical generators.

    If more energy-dense batteries don’t come along, it might be a good option, and shouldn’t have the toxic and expensive stuff most batteries have in them.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm, I haven’t heard about it at all. Something to look into and ask some technical experts about. :D

      • CB

        Molten salts are being used to store power in reflective solar concentrators for use overnight. I don’t see why they couldn’t be used to store wind energy as well. It seems to me salt is cheap, relatively non-toxic, and the energy density can be higher than batteries. Given the extremely high efficiencies of electrical transmission, you could have a huge centralised heat storage plant, maybe with auxiliary solar power, maybe with ag waste nearby for biochar production that you could use to create electricity when the wind doesn’t blow… you could actually go carbon-negative for very little money, as long as the storage unit didn’t require any fancy materials… a big if, I suppose.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a storage technique which has been talked about for a few years which may be given a try. Rather than making electricity the turbine will drive an air compressor, either through a drive shaft or hydraulic system. The compressed air will be stored in an underground chamber and used, when needed, to drive a generator to create electricity.

      They are projecting costs as low as power from natural gas plants and if so they are likely to push gas off the grid as gas prices rise. And as carbon taxes appear.

      http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/how-sustainxs-latest-patent-will-improve-grid-storage/9743

      • CB

        I’ve read a little bit about compressed air storage, but I’m not sure how you’d get decent efficiency with it, plus I’m suspicious the cost would be fairly high and you’d be limited to how much energy you could store.

        Batteries are the most efficient way to go for buffering, but even with the best ones we have now, the density is so low, we’d have to cover an entire city with batteries 3 feet high in order to guarantee the ability to run it for several days without external power… plus, they’re expensive, toxic and wear out quickly.

        With heat storage, however, there’s no limit to how much energy you can store, the more you insulate, the lower the energy dissipation, the salt used to store it is cheap and non-toxic, and you can use existing microwave generators to get the energy in, and existing high-efficiency turbines to extract it again. You can also heat and cool it as much as you want, and it’ll never wear out.

        A lot of times, the given cost of wind power doesn’t include buffering, which is a shame, but I don’t think the problem is insurmountable.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suspect you’re behind the times when it comes to batteries. The technology has advanced.

          Any idea what the efficiency for a microwave -> salt -> turbine system might be?

          • CB

            I calculated about 40%, mostly due to the turbines.

            I read about some liquid batteries being developed at MIT by a guy named Sadoway, but as far as I know, there’s still no demonstrated application of the technology.

            I do know of an installed Ni-Cd array they built in Fairbanks, and the energy density of the thing is appalling. It’ll only give you 26 megawatts for 15 minutes, and it’s a huge monster.

            Molten salts are being used in power towers already in Spain and elsewhere. It seems to me it would be fairly simple to scale it up by digging a giant insulated pit and filling it with salt and heating elements… totally earthquake-proof and inexpensive too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Forty percent isn’t good enough. That would mean that stored 6 cent wind would be 14 cent electricity – before the cost of the storage system was added in.

            Pump-up hydro is 85% efficient. And we’ve got hundreds/thousands of existing dams that could be converted. We could also use abandoned mines and do closed-loop systems.

            There are new battery technologies coming into manufacturing which test at over 85% efficiency and should store electricity as low as 1.5 cents per kWh. That would make stored 6 cent wind about 9 cents.

          • CB

            It would only be 40% efficient when buffering, which would not necessarily be all the time. If you had a long-distance, high-voltage smart grid (something I remember president Obama proposing a few years back), you’d minimise the amount of buffering you’d need with wind… but you’d still need some buffering, or else renewables will always be auxiliary and it will never be possible to get rid of dirty baseload power like coal.

            Pump-up hydro is definitely more efficient, but I’m not so sanguine about the number of places you could do it … plus, it doesn’t have the added benefit of using the waste heat in a molten salt system to pyrolyse our waste stream. If you were to do that, you could go carbon negative in addition to turning the tables on baseload coal.

            My issue with batteries is the toxic waste problem, plus the speed with which they wear out. I think they’ll be indispensable for transportation, but not so useful for buffering… We’ll see though. Once we get a global carbon tax, it may turn out to be cheaper because of the efficiencies even with the added cost of replacement and recycling.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The HVDC is being built one step at a time. Right now the push is to get Montana wind tied into the two existing Western Grid HVDC lines – the Pacific Intertie and Intermountain Intertie.

            There’s also, I believe, a leg being worked on in the Midwest.

            Sodium-ion batteries have nothing toxic in them. 5,000 cycles are good for ~14 years of once per day full cycles. If they get used to move wind from night to morning and solar from midday to evening then their life drops to ~7 years. 20,000 cycles multiplies those lives by 4x.

            Here’s some data on available dams…

            http://www.usbr.gov/power/data/1834/Sec1834_EPA.pdf

          • CB

            Connecting the Montana wind is definitely a big step, but I’d love to know why population centers like Chicago and New York aren’t connected with HVDC. Offshore wind in both of these places is fairly decent, and they are huge power draws. Out west, it seems like they should connect the Norcal coast with the pacific intertie. Wind is supposed to be pretty good out there too.

            I would assume sodium-ion batteries have even lower energy densities than Ni-Cds, or else they’d already be in use all over the place… plus, once again: you can heat and cool molten salt indefinitely. It doesn’t wear out.

            You’re running into a power issue with the dams too. According to the paper, the most they can give you nationwide is 6GW, which doesn’t come close to matching the 400GW of electrical energy you’d need to buffer the whole country. With thermal storage, there’s no limit to the amount of power you could generate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There is, IIRC, a HVDC line being run between Midwest wind and Chicago.

            Hooking Chicago and NY, I don’t see the usefulness of that at this point. Both have unique power sources.

            Offshore is almost certain to happen both off the east coast and in the Great Lakes. The first farm is being very slow to get started but once a few turbines are up and running I would expect installations to accelerate.

            The study of federal lands, two points. First, IIRC, 6GW is the amount of new generation. You need to dig through the tables to see how many dams have adequate head and availability but were eliminated as gen sources because they don’t have adequate inflow for year round production. Those are the pump-up candidates. And that study covered only dams on federal lands, a small percentage of total existing dams.

            Energy density is not a significant problem for grid storage. The batteries will be parked in less expensive real estate, not hauled from stop light to stop light.

            I know you’re in love with the idea of hot salt, but at 40% efficiency it isn’t likely to be a used technology.

            Thermal storage makes sense for thermal solar and, possibly, for stored waste heat.

            BTW, sodium-ion batteries are 100% recyclable. They can be rebuilt and reused.

          • CB

            lol! Hot salt just seems like a much better storage option for places that don’t have readily available water reservoirs, and (in lieu of better batteries) required to meet the majority of our buffering needs… plus, there’s the carbon sequestration benefit.

            All thermal plants operate at 40% efficiency: coal, nuclear, natural gas, etc. It’s a theoretical thermodynamic limitation of the turbines. One thing heat gets you though is readily dispatchable power, to a much greater degree than hydro can provide.

            As far as batteries go, the energy density isn’t a technical problem, it’s a cost problem. We could cover huge areas with sodium-ion units to buffer renewable energy, but you have that stuff spread out everywhere and going bad every few years, and it’s a maintenance nightmare. You’d need a small army to keep the thing going. You might be doubling the efficiency, but you’re multiplying your cost by a factor of 10 or more.

            If you have a single thermal storage plant, however, you have one point that needs to be repaired if pumps fail or turbines go down. You’d need just a few specialists to take care of entire cities, and you could cut corners wherever you wanted! There’s absolutely no danger of nuclear or toxic waste entering the environment.

            The idea with connecting population centers is to minimise times when you require buffering. If the wind is blowing offshore in NYC, but not in Chicago, you pipe whatever you don’t need in NYC west and you meet your needs without having to store any of it. It’s the same with Norcal/Socal. Both sites have decent offshore wind and population centers. If you connect them, you minimise storage requirements. Then, if you connect the coasts with inland wind and population centers, you’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit in terms of eliminating buffering requirements… you’d still need some buffering though.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What’s the cost of using electricity to heat salt and then using that heat to make electricity again?

            Can you do it for less than $0.015/kWh?

            Remember to figure in the <40% efficiency along with capex.

            (You're going to have a loss going in as well as the loss driving the turbine.)

            Hydro is immensely dispatchable. Second only to batteries. Gas turbines are a very distant third.

            Where (other than deserts where no one lives) do we not have enough water to charge a closed-loop hydro system?

            Distributed storage has a large advantage in that it doesn't require new transmission lines. Storing power at the 'community level' facilitates more rooftop solar on the grid.

            Yes, there is value in connecting all of North America into one big grid, but that's something we'll work our way toward by expanding the capability of local grids.

          • CB

            It looks like solar thermal plants cost about $0.30/kWh, where the biggest cost is the heliostat arrays. If you want to be generous and say the storage portion accounts for half of that, you’re left with $0.15/kWh, which is already in the hydro neighbourhood of around $0.08 to $0.16. The 40% figure is round-trip and included in this cost. Heating something is pretty much 100% efficient.

            It is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, because it’s storage not generation, but my guess is that you’d get better economies of scale the larger you built the thermal storage unit, and if you had to BUILD your own hydro system, you’d knock yourself out of the park with expenses. You don’t merely need water to do hydro inexpensively, you need mountains or some kind of terrain with a bottleneck.

            It’s not the dispatchability of hydro that’s a problem, it’s the power. With a temperature differential of thousands of degrees, you can get almost whatever power you want out of a thermal plant, but you can only drain a lake so quickly… that’s why the 6 GW maximum is important.

            Distributed storage is fine with cold-storage techniques, but when you’re talking about heat, the larger the storage unit, the lower your energy leakage. Considering the crazy-efficiency of transmitting power over HVDC (something like 98% per 1000km), it makes sense to have a centralised unit.

            There are about 16,000,000 Angelenos who might disagree with you about no one living in the desert, BTW…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Obviously you’re just making up numbers.

            We’ll see if anyone builds thermal storage, aside from thermal solar systems, or if other storage systems dominate.

          • CB

            Lol! From what I read, thermal solar costs on average $0.30/kWh, with the storage cost being only part of the total. From what I read, hydro costs $0.08/kWh to $0.16/kWh, with a reverse-pumped system and fluid containment system not being included in this cost.

            If you think these numbers are wrong, feel free to provide your own.

            We WILL see if anyone builds thermal storage systems, or any kind of storage systems, but I rather think this is more a question of whether or not humans get our act together before we go extinct.

          • CB

            Let me run some other numbers by you:

            There is apparently a sodium-sulphur buffer system set up by Xcel Energy, which uses a battery the size of 2 semi-trailers to provide 7.2 mWh of storage. If you wanted to size it up to something that could give you a gigawatt of power for 10 days, that means you would need 45 x 48 x 53 feet (standard semi-trailer size) x 2 trailers x 1000 megawatts per gigawatt x 10 days x 24 hours / 7.2 megawatt-hours per system. That’s 7,632,000,000 cubic feet of space (7.6 x 10^9 for those in the know).

            On the other hand, the 2 Andasol salt storage tanks give you around a gigawatt-hour of power and are 14m tall with a radius of 37m. That means to hold the equivalent amount of energy, you’d need 14m x 37m x 37m x 3.14159 (pi) x 2 tanks x 35.31467 cubic feet per cubic meter (curse the imperial system!) x 10 days x 24 hours which equals 1,020,651,267 cubic feet (or 1.0 x 10^9).

            That means, with existing technology, you’d need 7 times as much space to buffer your energy with batteries as you would with molten salt AND both your maintenance cost per unit volume as well as construction cost would be much higher for batteries considering they are complex pieces of engineering with lots of electronic, plastic and steel components which need to be replaced every few thousand cycles, whereas a salt storage tank is a big pit which will essentially never need to be replaced, and if you sited the thermal storage at existing coal and nuclear plants, you wouldn’t even need to build the turbines and water pumping infrastructure or gather the engineering expertise to maintain them!

            As far as storage goes, thermal is just a no-brainer. It doesn’t require any imaginary technology that hasn’t appeared yet, it leverages our existing infrastructure and it’s cheaper per gWh than any other option! … except for hydro, which we’ve already established won’t meet all of our buffering needs.

        • Grids

          Can’t speak to the newer approaches to compressed air energy storage, but the current technology, as used at 290 MW plant in Germany and 110 MW in Alabama, is highly efficient. The tricky part is separating out electrical efficiency from total energy-in/out efficiency because it combines the air pressurized by electricity with a little bit of gas burned on the way out to drive the turbine. Burns half the gas of a combined cycle plant, bit over 1/3 the gas of simple cycle gas turbine. Electrical RT efficiency is in the high 70′s or 80′s.

          • CB

            I just proposed 10 days of storage. Am I no one? o_O

            It seems to me better to have too much storage than not enough, plus the more capacity you have the more efficient the system.

            It looks like CAES is about 50% efficient without capturing the heat generated from compression which brings you back to… molten salt! It would help bring up your efficiencies if you have a cavern handy, but the whole burning natural gas thing is a non-starter. This is supposed to be a technique for reducing atmospheric carbon, not increasing it.

            In a purely thermal system, you can actually sequester carbon by pyrolising your waste stream with the waste heat (and get usable biogas as well).

            I like pumped storage, but if the maximum output is 6GW, it’s not going to meet the nation’s needs (~800GW peak).

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  • Anonymous

    The numbers for wind in 2010 have come in. The US installed 5,113 more MWs of turbines and China installed almost four times as much (18,928MW).

    The price of turbines has fallen back to about where it was in 2006 and is expected to fall further as manufacturers learn how to make even more efficient turbines for less money.

    Taller, longer blade, more efficient turbines have brought the price of wind-generated electricity to $0.03/kWh. The cost of transmission will raise that price for wind which has to be harvested further from existing power lines.

    We’re on track (somewhat ahead of) to produce 20% of all US electricity by 2030.

    The cost of integrating wind into the overall grid is quite low, less than one-half cent per hWh.

    Transmission and/or on-site storage will be the big wind issues going forward. Until these issues are resolved we will have to burn more natural gas than we would otherwise need to do.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/what-do-winds-cost-price-and-performance-trends-show-three-cents-per-kilowa/

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  • Anonymous

    “Wind energy capacity is expected to deliver lumpy growth, but will roughly triple from 2010 to 2017, according to Pike Research.

    According to Pike, wind farm projects have an 18-month project cycle and that means some lumpy growth rates. In 2008 and 2009, wind power had strong growth rates of 29 percent and 32 percent, respectively. But 2010 wind power capacity fell 22 percent due to the resession.

    Overall growth rates for wind installations will fall short of the 2008 and 2009 booms, but remain healthy. Pike is projecting that overall capacity will grow from 194.3 gigawatts in 2010 to 562.9 gigawatts by 2017. In 2017, wind power installations will be a $153 billion industry worldwide, up from $56 billion in 2010.”

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/global-wind-capacity-expected-to-triple-by-2017/17590

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  • Anonymous

    Good article on San Gorgonio Pass wind farms that gives one a feel for what it’s like in a wind farm area (and why few people live there).  Good pictures….

    “A drive through the forests of turbines in the San Gorgonio Pass, one of
    the first places where utility-scale wind was developed, was a perfect
    way to close out Windpower 2011,
    the industry’s annual conclave. The modern history of the wind industry
    is on display in the Pass, represented by the many generations of
    technology that are still generating electricity there.”

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/what-is-winds-yesterday-telling-winds-tomorrow-in-the-san-gorgonio-pass/

    • L33t4im

      Believe it or not, but some people have complained about the shadows generated from wind turbine blades, saying that they make the person dizzy and, in some cases, are believed to have caused traumatic stress, anxiety, confusion, and even hysteria. Next time you have a second, turn your ceiling fan on low and watch the shadows generated from the blades. Do this for long enough and you’ll notice the effects.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The key word here – “hysteria”.

        For a few hours per night, during a few nights of the year, spinning blades could cause ‘moon flickering’. It’s not likely that sun shadows would be noticeable unless one was straining to see them.

        I recall an interview with someone who lived close to a turbine. When asked about how she dealt with the flicker she replied “I just close the blinds”.

        Turbines turn much too slowly to trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. (It can happen with window fans.)

        Studies have found no adverse health effects caused by wind turbines. But if one works themselves into a dither over being close to a spinning turbine then they could potentially damage their own health.

        Self-induced stress, anxiety, and confusion. Don’t we see people do that sort of stuff to themselves from time to time? There’s smart meters, black helicopters, Y2K, ….

  • Anonymous

    Good article on worldwide wind….

    “Given that we are still only just emerging from the worst recession
    in more than 50 years, what does this imply for the future of the wind
    technology sector? All things considered, wind power is expected to
    deliver 1.92% of the world’s electricity in 2011 and current indications
    are that it may be able to meet 9.1% of global electricity demand by
    2020. Looking forward, the report projects an average global growth rate
    of 15.5% per year for new annual installations through 2015, resulting
    in a total global capacity of 513.6 GW by 2015.

    In the less predictable five-year period 2016-2020, the expectation
    is for an average annual growth rate of approximately 11.5%, closing in
    on the 1000 GW milestone by the end of 2020. By then, based on the
    International Energy Agency’s prediction of overall demand, wind power
    is expected to supply 9.1% of the world’s electricity, the analysis
    concludes.”

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/05/from-the-editor15

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  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Fantastic information on Wind in the World. A great painstaking effort to put all the information with authentic statistics at one place. Congratulations Clean Technica for publishing this.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

    • Anonymous

      Thank You Much :D

      Still have a ways to go… :D

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  • Anonymous

    A good summary of wind in 2010 by Stefan Gsänger the Secretary-general of the World Wind Energy Association.  I’ll copy the first few paragraphs…

    “In 2010 the total global installed wind capacity reached some
    196,630 MW showing sustained growth on 2009′s 159,050 MW, 2008′s 120,903
    MW, and 2007′s 93,930 MW.

    Despite this impressive increase, investment in new turbines in
    fact saw a decline in many parts of the world. For the first time in
    more than two decades the turbine market fell against the previous year
    to 37,642 MW in 2010, down from 2009′s 38,312 MW.
    Global turnover for the sector reached €40 billion (US$55 billion) in
    2010, down 20 percent on the €50 billion ($70 billion) in 2009. This decrease was largely due to lower prices for wind turbines.”(Note:  a downturn in 2010 reflects the global financial recession which brought an overall decrease in investment and power usage.)Here’s a good summary of wind installed on each continent…”The total global installed wind capacity at the end of 2010 could
    potentially contribute 430 TWh annually, representing 2.5 percent of
    total global demand.
    In some countries and regions wind has become one of the largest
    electricity sources. For instance in terms of wind share, Denmark is the
    world leader with 21 percent, Portugal follows with 18 percent, Spain
    at 16 percent, and Germany with 9 percent. In China, wind contributed
    1.2 percent to overall electricity supply, while in the US, wind’s share
    reached about 2 percent.
    By the end of 2010 about 670,000 people were employed worldwide, both
    directly and indirectly, in the various branches of the wind sector.
    Within five years, the number of jobs has almost tripled, from 235,000
    in 2005.”http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/05/world-wind-outlook-down-but-not-out

    • jr

      Viva Nicaragua

      • Bob_Wallace

        “Vestas has signed an order for a total capacity of 39.6 MW consisting of 22 units of the V100-1.8 MW turbine for the Alba Rivas wind power plant, which will be located in Hacienda La Fe, Rivas, Nicaragua.

        Delivery of the first turbines is expected to start in Q4 2012 and the project is expected to be commercially operational during Q2 2013.”

        http://www.vestas.com/Default.aspx?ID=10332&action=3&NewsID=3103

        Viva.

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