IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Wind

Wind provided around 0.5% of the total 17,408 TWh global electricity production in 2004 (IEA, 2006b) but its technical potential greatly exceeds this (WEC, 2004d; GWEC, 2006). Installed capacity increased from 2.3 GW in 1991 to 59.3 GW at the end of 2005 when it generated 119 TWh at an average capacity factor of around 23%. New wind installation capacity has grown at an average of 28% per year since 2000, with a record 40% increase in 2005 (BTM, 2006) due to lower costs, greater government support through feed-in tariff and renewable energy certificate policies (Section 4.5), and improved technology development. Total offshore wind capacity reached 679 MW at the end of 2005 (BTM, 2006), with the expectation that it will grow rapidly due to higher mean annual wind-speed conditions offsetting the higher costs and public resistance being less. Various best-practices guidelines have been produced and issues such as noise, electromagnetic (EMF) interference, airline flight paths, land-use, protection of areas with high landscape value, and bird and bat strike, are better understood but remain constraints. Most bird species exhibit an avoidance reaction to wind turbines, which reduces the probability of collision (NERI, 2004).

The average size of wind turbines has increased in the last 25 years from less than 50 kW in the early 1980s to the largest commercially available in 2006 at around 5MW and having a rotor diameter of over 120 m. The average turbine size being sold in 2006 was around 1.6–2 MW but there is also a market for smaller turbines <100 kW. In Denmark, wind energy accounted for 18.5% of electricity generation in 2004, and 25% in West Denmark where 2.4 GW is installed, giving the highest generation per capita in the world.

Capital costs for land-based wind turbines can be below 900 US$/kW with 25% for the tower and 75% for the rotor and nacelle, although price increases have occurred due to supply shortages and increases in steel prices. Total costs of an onshore wind farm range from 1000–1400 US$/kW, depending on location, road access, proximity to load, etc. Operation and maintenance costs vary from 1% of investment costs in year one, rising to 4.5% after 15 years. This means that on good sites with low surface roughness and capacity factors exceeding 35%, power can be generated for around 30–50 US$/MWh (IEA, 2006c; Morthorst, 2004; Figure 4.12).


Figure 4.12: Development of wind-generation costs based on Danish experience since 1985 with variations shown due to land surface and terrain variations (as indicated by roughness indicator classes which equal 0 for open water and up to 3 for rugged terrain).

Source: Morthorst, 2004.

A global study of 7500 surface stations showed mean annual wind speeds at 80 m above ground exceeded 6.9 m/s with most potential found in Northern Europe along the North Sea, the southern tip of South America, Tasmania, the Great Lakes region, and the northeastern and western coasts of Canada and the US. A technical potential of 72 TW installed global capacity at 20% average capacity factor would generate 126,000 TWh/yr (Archer and Jacobsen, 2005). This is five times the assumed global production of electricity in 2030 (IEA, 2006b) and double the 600 EJ potential capacity estimated by Johansson et al. (2004) (Table 4.2).

The main wind-energy investments have been in Europe, Japan, China, USA and India (Wind Force 12, 2005). The Global Wind Energy Council assumed this will change and has estimated more widespread installed capacity of 1250 GW by 2020 to supply 12% of the world’s electricity. The European Wind Energy Association set a target of 75 GW (168 TWh) for EU-15 countries in 2010 and 180 GW (425 TWh) in 2020 (EWEA, 2004). Several Australian and USA states have similar ambitious targets, mainly to meet the increasing demand for power rather than to displace nuclear or fossil-fuel plants. Rapid growth in several developing countries including China, Mexico, Brazil and India is expected since private investment interest is increasing (Martinot et al., 2005).

The fluctuating nature of the wind constrains the contribution to total electricity demand in order to maintain system reliability. To supply over 20% would require more accurate forecasting (Giebel, 2005), regulations that ensure wind has priority access to the grid, demand-side response measures, increases in the use of operational reserves in the power system (Gul and Stenzel, 2005) or development of energy storage systems (EWEA, 2005; Mazza and Hammerschlag, 2003). The additional cost burden in Denmark to provide reliability was claimed to be between 1–1.5 billion € (Bendtsen, 2003) and 2–2.5 billion € per annum (Krogsgaard, 2001). However, the costs for back-up power decrease drastically with larger grid area, larger area containing distributed wind turbines and greater share of flexible hydro and natural-gas-fired power plants (Morthorst, 2004).

A trend to replace older and smaller wind turbines with larger, more efficient, quieter and more reliable designs gives higher power outputs from the same site often at a lower density of turbines per hectare. Costs vary widely with location (Table 4.7). Sites with wind speeds of less than 7–8 m/s are not currently economically viable without some form of government support if conventional power-generation costs are above 50 US$/Wh (Oxera, 2005). A number of technologies are under development in order to maximize energy capture for lower wind-speed sites. These include: optimized turbine designs; larger turbines; taller towers; the use of carbon-fibre technology to replace glass-reinforced polymer in longer wind-turbine blades; maintenance strategies for offshore turbines to overcome difficulties with access during bad weather/rough seas; more accurate aero-elastic models and more advanced control strategies to keep the wind loads within the turbine design limits.