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Alternative Energy

The Global Wind Power Market - The World's Fastest Growing Power Source

Man has been harnessing the power of air in motion for more than 5,000 years. Early sailboats, simple windmills, wind farms, and today's sophisticated wind turbines, all rely on basic wind energy. Wind energy is a clean and renewable source that can be used to generate electricity for urban utilities and homes in remote villages.

Following the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, interest in wind energy surged in response to climbing energy prices and doubts about the availability of conventional fuels. Federal and state tax incentives and aggressive government research programs triggered the development and use of many new wind turbine designs.

Since 1990, use of wind power has grown by 150%, representing an annual growth rate of 20%. In many parts of the world, wind power is now cost-competitive with fossil fuel-fired power plants. As wind turbines are further improved, wind power is likely to become even more competitive. Although it now generates less than 1% of the world's electricity, the steady technological advance of wind power suggests that it could become an important energy source for many nations within the next decade.

Electricity generated by wind turbines does not emit pollutants like other energy sources. This means less smog, less acid rain and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Every 10,000 MW of wind installed can reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 33 MMT annually if it replaces coal-fired generating capacity, or 21 MMT if it replaces generation from average fuel mix.

The major challenge to using wind as a source of power is that it is intermittent and does not always blow when or where electricity is needed. Wind cannot be stored (although wind-generated electricity can be stored in batteries), and it cannot always be harnessed to meet the timing of electricity demands. Furthermore, good wind sites are often located in remote places far from areas of electric power demand. Other drawbacks to wind power include noise pollution, visual impact, and potential danger to wildlife.

In addition, wind resource development may compete with other uses for land, and those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. Large experimental models, with blade diameters of up to 300 feet, are eschewed as visual blights by some planners and developers. However, wind turbines can be co-located on land that is used for grazing or farming.

This report on the Global Wind Power Market describes and compares various designs and types of wind turbines ranging from large machines capable of supplying electricity for 700 homes to small-scale models suitable for home, farm and remote uses. It explains the technology and physics of how wind turbines function and assesses the markets and future potential for wind power in Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region. The report also includes sections on the role of government, the economics of wind power, and key players in the industry.

Currently, developing countries have little incentive to use wind energy technologies to reduce pollution despite the fact that the most rapid growth in CO2 emissions is in the developing world. Two initiatives could give both developed and developing countries incentives to develop wind projects. The first is joint implementation, a program under which firms from developed countries can earn carbon offsets by building clean energy projects in the developing world. The second is the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which can cover the incremental cost of developing environmentally benign or beneficial projects in the developing world. This incentive is particularly important for countries such as China and India, which have tremendous power needs and must build energy capacity quickly at the lowest possible cost.

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