Multiple sources of renewable energy are being developed around the world as countries try to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. For the generation of electricity in particular, depending on the locale, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind energy are all being used. Of all the forms of renewable energy under development, I think wind has perhaps the most immediate promise.
The current data from the United Kingdom are illustrative. The UK has been investing in wind generation, establishing sites of wind turbines in locations all around the British Isles. These efforts are paying off big for the British. The latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that renewable energy increased its share of total energy produced over the past year from 7.7% to 11%. The biggest contributor to that increase was wind, up about 50% year-on-year. At this rate Britain is a shoe-in to achieve its target of generating 15% of its energy needs from renewables by the year 2020.
Expect this trend to continue, especially as the building of offshore wind turbine farms picks up. Britain has more than 550 offshore turbines in current operation, and another1200 under construction. It is estimated that offshore wind energy has the potential to meet Britain’s electricity needs 5 times over. Now that is an impressive statistic
And wind energy has been good for the economy as well. The cost of wind energy has been falling and the industry already employs more than 31,000 people. Building up the infrastructure to get wind energy established has been incentivized through a subsidy program, but those subsidies are scheduled to be phased out.
Given all the unused land in the USA and the potential for offshore wind energy sites to be developed as well, it is surprising that there has been so much political resistance to wind energy development in America. Economic forces such as the current low natural gas prices keep wind energy from being as competitive as it is in the UK, but long-term thinking is required here if we are to wean ourselves from fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.