Clean Power

Published on September 29th, 2012 | by James Ayre


European Union Wind Power Capacity Reaches 100 GW!

September 29th, 2012 by  

The European Union’s installed wind power capacity has reached a milestone — the 100 gigawatt (GW) mark. That’s the equivalent of the electricity generated by 39 nuclear power plants, or “a train of coal stretching from Buenos Aires to Brussels.” There are financial risks that are threatening this growth though, according to industry body EWEA.


“We have just in the past couple of weeks passed 100 gigawatts of total installed capacity in Europe,” Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association is quoted as saying.

“We have been adding about 10 gigawatts per year for a couple of years and it will be around the same this year,” he added. “Whether that will continue in 2013, I can’t say. There’s too much political uncertainty.”

The wind power industry is very capital-intensive, so after banks recently “shortened the maturity of loans and increased costs for lenders,” it’s now facing challenges, Kjaer said, according to a Reuters news report.

In order to counter this, wind power companies are now looking for additional funding through “long-term investors, including pension funds and insurers to make up the shortfall.”

And happening at the same time, the recent economic crisis in the European Union has been leading to significant changes in government policies to do with the funding of renewable energy.

Recent growth in wind power in the EU this year includes 400 megawatts (MW) developed by DONG Energy off the coast of Denmark, and 48 MW developed by EDF Energies Nouvelles Polska in Poland, EWEA said.

So far, the majority for installed wind power has been onshore wind, but the rapidly emerging large-scale offshore wind sector can potentially double the current 100 gigawatts very fast,… once it solves its financing and grid issues.

Currently, the industry cost estimates for installing offshore are at least 2 times higher than onshore, “3-4 million euros per megawatt, compared with around 1.2-1.4 million euros for onshore.”

In order to stimulate future investment, EWEA is pushing the European Commission and its member states to “agree on a policy beyond the existing target of a 20 percent share of energy from renewable sources by 2020. It also wants to ensure major investment in the European grid, as part of a single energy market, in which supplies can easily cross national borders.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credits: Wind Turbines and Turbines via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • JoeThorpe1963

    What is the average output? Capacity is pointless they never run at their optimal level they have to be supported by traditional generation methods

    • Bob_Wallace

      Joe – please point a single generation technology that runs at 100% nameplate capacity 24/365.

      All generators need backup, they all have to be supported by having extra generation capability that can be brought on line as needed.

      The real statistic you should be wondering about is $/kWh. Wind is kicking the butts of every other generation technology.

      • JoeThorpe1963

        When the power is needed, Coal, Gas & Nuclear run an optimal capacity. On average Wind & Solar run at 25% of “capacity”. An Island off Scotland renowned for its wind capacity threw all its eggs into the green “free” supply of energy through solar & wind but had to then restrict supply during periods of wind deficiency that they had to install regular back up generators. These turbines then generate power when no one wants it but because its supplied to the grid it has to be paid for & its paid for by the end user the householder in the form of higher bills.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, Joe.

          Solar averages around 30% in the best solar locations, higher if one uses tracking. And solar averages only around 17% in places that average 4 solar hours per day. A bit more with tracking.

          Wind, new technology, is averaging around 50% of nameplate capacity.

          Of course there will be/are times when the wind is not blowing and the Sun is not shining. That’s why a fully functional grid requires fill-in generation and storage.

          Do you not realize that we installed over 20GWs of pump-up hydro in order to incorporate nuclear into the US grid back when we were building nuclear?

          Do you not realize that we have backup generation capacity for nuclear and coal? Do you remember back a year or two ago when the two Virginia reactors suddenly went off line in an earthquake? Do you not realize that San Onofre and Chrystal River reactors are now offline and we’re having to get the power they would have generated from other sources?

          Come on Joe. Do some very simple arithmetic.

          Condition 1. We get all our electricity from combined cycle gas plants. We burn X amount of natural gas to generate that power.

          Condition 2. We get 50% of our electricity from wind turbines which allows us to turn off our combined cycle natural gas plants 50% of the time.

          Question. What percentage less natural gas do we use under Condition 2?
          (Here’s a hint: 100% – 50% = ….)

      • JoeThorpe1963
        • Bob_Wallace

          I wasn’t suspecting that you made it up. I was suspecting that you are short on understanding.

          Putting all ones eggs in one basket rarely is a good idea. Those folks needed to incorporate backup for when the wind wasn’t blowing.

          Europe is working on an incorporated grid that will take care of those problems. It’s tying together all sorts of supply from Iceland’s geothermal and hydro to northern Europe’s wind and hydro to southern Europe’s and North Africa’s solar. And they will build in enough storage and dispatchable supply to make it all function.

          It will take a while to build the 21st Century grid. Along the way there will be some rough spots, but we’ll get through them and end up with less expensive electricity than we now have and electricity generation that doesn’t destroy our ability to live on the planet.

          • Ross

            Progress on a small part of this. Commercial operation of a new 500 MW interconnector between the Ireland & UK grids is starting this Thursday 4th Oct. Final commissioning on it was completed last Thursday.

    • Luke

      Well I’m sure the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is running at 100% capacity right now…

      Assuming your question is rhetorical, and that you think turbines only produce a small portion of their rated capacity, let me just say that the misconception that wind turbines only have a capacity factor is 20-30% is nowadays just plain wrong.

      Nowadays 40-50%, even higher in some instances, is the norm. Turbines have got bigger and more efficient, they need less maintenance they they used to, siting is considered more, and weather prediction technologies help improve the capacity factor of modern wind turbines. I know here in New Zealand, some years local wind farms run at better than 60% capacity.

      And you totally forget that through grid balancing with other wind farms, a decent level of uncertainty can be removed. If you have 2 50MW wind farms linked together in separate locations, you have a roughly 75% chance of always producing 50MW of power. If you add in a 3rd, it rises to 87%. 4th? Nearly 94% of producing 50MW.

      Don’t give me this BS that wind turbines need to be supported via traditional generation methods. The days of that being necessary are long gone.

  • Wonderful achievement. Every European should know that the reason for the current recession is the high price of Oil. Start investing more in Wind and Solar and cut down the Oil and Gas consumption.

    Europe’s economy will recover. Ofcourse for this, many cars should move to Plugins / EVs as well.

  • Just 1 Question:

    With 100 GW, why has wind never displaced even 1 single coal or gas fired plant?

    The answer to this question reveals the FARCE behind wind energy.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Just 1 Rebuttal:

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

      Coal plants are often shut down in the spring when demand is lower and wind is high. Wind on the grid often causes gas plants to cease operation.

      We’re permanently closing coal plants in the US and replacing them with wind and gas.

      • No We are still using Coal and Gas to backup intermittent Wind. There are times when Wind produces Too Little Power, especially at Midday when demand is highest, or When it produces TOO MUCH power for the Grid. Yet Wind industry still counts the useless excess power as part of the 100GW.

        That is the truth that the wind industry is hiding from the public while they continue to milk subsidies for themselves.

        I want to know how many Coal Plants have been shut down, Not “In The Spring”

        CO2 is still Co2, Even if it’s Not Spring.

        • Ronald Brak

          So, Paul, how old were you when you realized that wind turbines don’t produce electricity when the wind isn’t blowing? Personally I was very young when I realized this, but then my Dutch heritage probably gave me an unfair advantage.

          • I’m not sure what your point is. Are you being sarcastic?

            I am probably older than you are, and if you really care about our energy future, you’d be concerned that renewables as they are currently are being overhyped while they are not actually replacing any CO2 generating power sources.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Paul, I’ll bet I’m as old or older than you. When I was born FDR was president. Do I win?

            Now, in 2010 wind generated 2.9% of all US electricity. Common sense will tell you that we used 2.9% less fossil fuel than we would have had wind not contributed.

            The percentage of electricity we now get from renewables is low, but it is growing. And growing at an accelerating rate.

            Remember, at one time coal provided 0% of our electricity. Over time it grew to be more than 50% of our generation and has now dropped into the low 30% range. Wind and solar will increase and be larger and larger players as time goes on.

            Especially since wind is now our cheapest way to add capacity to the grid and solar prices are dropping so rapidly.

            Also remember, solar directly replaces very expensive peak period production, which is generally very expensive gas peaker power.

          • suman

            Bob, I have to admit you have patience. 🙂

          • Luke

            No! It’s much better we continue to rely on an energy source which is expensive, dirty, and only available in large quantities in China! YES WE CAN!

            I love how conservatives exude the principle of self-reliance, yet they refuse to even consider applying that ideology to energy generation.

          • Ronald Brak

            So Paul, are you saying that when renewables in my state meet our entire electricity demand, as they do every now and then, fossil fuel plants just keep burning fossil fuels for no reason, presumably bypassing the tubines and venting steam, just for the hell of it? Why would anyone do anything that stupid?

          • suman

            You know why? Because skeptics like you in the policy making are not allowing the world to go full ahead with green energy. On one hand we have to choose Green energy to reduce pollutants and on other hand we have to choose efficient equipment that consume less power.
            And it would further help if you can keep population same. Bob here is doing his part by sharing information. So, Paul, in your next post I want to know what have you done till date for environmental cause?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Paul, here’s some more numbers for you to consider…

            In 2005 the US generated 71.3% of its electricity using coal, natural gas and oil. By 2011 that contribution fell to 67.6%.

            In 2005 the US generated 2.2% of its electricity using non-hydro renewables (wind, solar, etc.). By 2011 that contribution rose to 4.8%.

            Nuclear remained the same and hydro generation contributed 1.2% additional.

            Simple arithmetic will tell you that we burned less fossil fuel in 2011 than in 2005 and that renewable energy allowed us to cut that amount.

            Now, did that small change allow us to close massive numbers of coal and gas plants? No, but it takes very little imagination to see the direction in which we are heading. We had about 600 coal plants in 2005. A 4% drop in coal use would mean that about 24 coal plants became redundant.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We don’t use coal to fill in for wind. Coal cannot be cycled on rapidly. In some places coal is now being used seasonally rather than year round.
          We do use gas to fill in for wind. Or put another way, we use wind to allow us to turn off gas. As we bring more wind and storage on line we’ll turn off more and more coal and gas. Gas is most likely a short term solution and will be replaced by storage as battery technology develops. Moving from coal to a mix of wind and gas greatly cuts CO2 emissions as well as stopping coal pollutant problems like mercury.

          “Today was a big milestone for people who care about public health and a livable climate. Two utilities announced the planned closure of nine coal plants in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bringing total retirements (executed and planned) since January 2010 past the 100 mark to 106.”

          If you would like to review the specific coal plants closed you can find a list here –


            I do know what I’m saying. Coal is being used to backup wind.

            At least you admit that CO2 (Natural Gas) is not eliminated. But you fail to acknowledge that No Coal plant has been shut Down and Replaced by wind.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No Paul, that is not what your link says. You link talks about how Europe is dropping coal slower than they had intended because they’ve decided to get rid of nuclear as fast as possible.

            Germany’s *new coal burning plants are replacing (not adding to) the older plants that either have been or will soon be decommissioned. Moreover, by 2020, 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned, whereas only 11.3 gigawatts will be newly installed.*
            *Germany started the process of replacing older less efficient coal plants years ago, it can take a decade to build a new coal plant. When this round of building is finished Germany will have 7.5 fewer gigawatts of coal generation.*
            *You link does say “*provide baseload backup for wind and solar power” but that’s just some nonsense written by someone who doesn’t know how the grid operates. There’s no such thing as “baseload backup”. Baseload is an outmoded term which we used when our sources were largely “always on”. Now that we are moving to a grid that utilizes variable inputs the term baseload is falling out of use.


        • Bob_Wallace

          And, Paul, I suspect you don’t know how much the wind does blow. If you connect wind farms over a moderate area there is good wind output as reliably as one would get electricity from a coal plant (87.5% of the time).

    • Luke

      Because of your ignorance you fail to realize that wind DOES actually displaces hundreds of coal/gas power plants every day thanks to the Merit Order setup of most national grids.

      I’m not going to explain what ‘Merit Order’ is or how it works, instead, I want you for the first time in your life to go out, Google it, research it with an open mind, and then make a decision about wind power based on the FACTS that you have discovered, not the OPINIONS that are presented to you every time you turn on FOX News.

    • Ross

      Renewables are already displacing coal in a variety of ways including:

      The merit order effect means renewable power is drawn when it is available in preference to coal, this makes the coal plant more expensive to operate.
      New coal plants aren’t being built because alternatives are cheaper and there’s no business case for it.
      Existing coal plants that are too expensive to meet EPA regulations (thank you Richard Nixon for signing the Clean Air Act) are being shut down.

    • Suma

      chimps will remin chimps

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