Despite the limitations and boundaries that wind energy may extend, Germany has proven to be a success story and has become the world leader in wind power. In the early 1990s, Germany started out with almost no renewable resource industry, and it seemed unlikely that it would ever be considered a leader in these technologies. The decision of the German government, in 1990, to pass a law that required utilities to purchase the electricity generated from all renewable technologies, and to pay a minimum price, was governed by the public's increased concern about the security of energy supplies and its environmental impact.
The results that Germany has experienced are staggering. The average cost of manufacturing wind turbines fell 43 percent 1990-2000. In 1997, Germany surpassed the United States to become the world leader in wind energy production. The percent of total electricity accounted for by wind power has increased from 3-6 percent 2001-07. In 2002 the renewable resource industries totaled $11 billion in sales. Nearly 45,000 Germans were employed in the wind industry alone in 2003. The country is taking further steps by pledging to reduce its CO2 emissions by increasing its use of renewable energy. The government aims to meet 25 percent of national electricity needs by 2025 and at least half of its total energy needs with renewable resources by 2050.
The world can learn a lesson from Germany's innovative renewable energy technologies, especially wind power, and many nations are taking the initiative. Countries such as Spain and Denmark have established similar laws as Germany. Spain is a leading turbine producer, generated 5 percent of its electricity from wind in 2003, and has some of the world's largest turbine manufacturers. In Denmark, 20 percent of its electricity has been generated by wind. In the United States, at least 38 states have enacted similar laws.
These numbers are projected to increase. Major oil companies, including BP and Shell, are investing hundreds of millions in renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Wind Powering America Initiative intends, by the year 2020, to have 5 percent of the nation's electricity generated through wind power. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has developed a program, Wind Force 12, to produce 12 percent of the world's electricity by wind for the year 2020. Some countries may expect wind to contribute to larger percentages of their total energy by 2010.
For years, the exploiting and burning of fossil fuels has caused emissions of harmful gases and severe degradation of the environment. People worldwide are becoming conscious of the consequences of their actions for the environment. Only with a suitable amount of time, money, and energy invested in wind power can countries reap its full benefits. It does not emit pollutants into the air or water. There is no chance of hazardous waste as a byproduct of its use. The wind is a sustainable, natural, renewable resource which can never be diminished, unlike the finite supply of natural gas, coal and oil.
sEE ALso: Alternative Energy, Overview; Energy, Renewable; Germany; Wind Driven Circulation; Winds, Easterlies; Winds, Westerlies.
BIBLIogRAPHY. T. Burton et al., Wind Energy Handbook (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2001); S. Heier, Grid Integration of Wind Energy Conversion Systems (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1998); J.F. Manwell, J.G. McGowan, and A.L. Rogers, Wind Energy Explained: Theory, Design and Application (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2002); S. Mathew, Wind Energy: Fundamentals, Resource Analysis and Economics (Springer, 2002); M.R. Patel, Wind and Solar Power Systems: Design, Analysis, and Operation (Taylor & Francis Group, 2006); J.L. Sawin, Mainstreaming Renewable Energy in the 21st Century (Worldwatch Institute, 2004).
DeMond S. Miller
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
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