Why renewable energy sources?
Throughout the world intensive efforts are being made to reduce our dependency on oil and other fossil fuels. There are several reasons why renewable energy sources are preferable:
- To fight climate change which has come about as a result of the use of fossil fuels
- To increase the domestic usage of renewable energy
- To reduce the impact of the price of oil on the global economy and jobs
- To sever the link between oil, peace and international security
Wind power is the renewable energy source with the greatest development potential. It produces clean electricity with zero emissions.
How does wind power work?
As the sun heats up the earth, it also heats up the atmosphere. Since hot air is lighter than cold air it rises creating an empty space at the bottom. As nature loathes empty spaces, the air that has risen is replaced by air entering from the side – wind. It is these winds that drive a wind power turbine.
A wind power turbine consists mainly of the rotor blades and a generator placed on top of the tower of the wind power turbine. The generator and other sensitive equipment are protected in so-called nacelle (machine cover). The wind makes the rotor blades spin and this rotation is converted into electricity by the generator. A wind power turbine begins to produce electricity at wind speeds of around 3 – 4 meters per second (m/sec) and continues to produce electricity up to wind speeds of about 30 m/sec. Wind speeds above that trigger a safety device that shuts the wind power turbine down. Maximum output is usually reached at wind speeds of between 12 – 14 m/sec and this continues until wind speeds are too high and the turbine shuts down. However, as high wind speeds rarely occur it is not economically viable to build wind power turbines that can cope with wind speeds of more than 30 m/sec. Having said that, today’s wind power turbines are designed to withstand winds of up to 70 m/sec.
As long as the wind blows there will be wind power
The wind has been used throughout the ages to operate various types of equipment such as mills, pumps and boats. The first electricity generating wind power turbines were developed in the US in the 1870s.
Historically, wind power has accounted for a relatively small portion of global electricity production, but in recent years the development of wind power has taken off.
During the energy crisis in the seventies it became clear that access to fossil fuels was limited and that there was a strong need to develop renewable energy sources. The climate debate has driven the issue forward and today the political consensus is that wind power will play a crucial role in the transition to a sustainable society.
The expansion of modern wind power has been rapid. 1980 there was 100 MW of wind power capacity installed throughout the world which today would equal about 40 modern wind power turbines. In 1990, there was 2 000 MW installed worldwide and in 2007 there was 94 000 MW installed.
There are several reasons why wind power has grown rapidly in recent years.
A greater climate awareness among politicians and the public means that fossil fuels will most certainly be phased out. The EU has formulated ambitious goals that indicate a major expansion of renewable energy amongst the member states.
Wind power means reliable energy supply
Wind power, like wave, solar and hydroelectric power, is a unique energy source as it is independent of fuel. This means that we do not need to depend on imports in order to secure local energy supplies. Since the wind is free to use there are no price variations and it is also possible, at the time of investment, to calculate how much electricity will be generated.
Another advantage of wind power is that the availability of electricity is guaranteed no matter what occurs in the world around us unlike power produced using fossil fuels, which are finite and will most likely become increasingly expensive and vary sharply in price over the coming decades.
There are also economic advantages to be had by making a country independent of energy imports. The planned expansion of wind power, bio-energy and other renewable energy sources means that there will be a substantial surplus of generated electricity within a few years. Forecasts show that Poland will be able to produce more electricity than the country needs by 2020. This means that there will be a possibility to export green electricity to other parts of Europe thereby generating export earnings and providing opportunities for other countries to close their fossil-based electricity generating plants.
Wind power is competitive
Wind power was long considered to be an expensive energy source. Today the situation is very different.
Since the 1980s, the price of electricity produced by wind energy has fallen by 80% due to the fact that wind power turbines have become both larger and more efficient. Today, wind power is as cheap as electricity produced from natural gas and its competitiveness in comparison with other energy sources is constantly increasing. It costs between 0,06 € and 0,07 € to produce one kWh of electricity with a modern wind power turbine depending on its location.
According to ICF International, a wind farm built in 2025 will produce electricity at a lower price than plants running on natural gas, hydropower and coal power using CCS-technology (Carbon Capture and Storage). This conclusion is based on the assumption that the price of wind power will decrease by 20% by 2025. Wind and other renewable energy sources will also become even more competitive as environmentally harmful fossil fuel energy sources will have to bear their own environmental costs for example through the introduction of global taxes for carbon dioxide emissions.
Wind power provides jobs
Wind power’s strong growth is feeding a rapidly expanding industry and the prospects for major developments in Poland and Europe are bright. Currently nearly 110 000 people in Europe work within the wind power industry.
The wind power industry creates jobs for a variety of professions ranging from engineers and programmers to fitters and electricians. It is also worth noting that wind power developers strive to use local suppliers for their projects. This means that a wind power project based in a small town can boost the local economy by creating both direct and indirect jobs.
Wind power makes Poland live
The growth of wind power provides economic benefits regionally and locally. It creates jobs within construction, operations, maintenance and management and leads to indirect effects which favor local business communities as the consumption of goods and services increases.
Landowners who submit their land for wind power projects receive a land lease fee for the usage of their land. This means that landowners who lease their land to a developer can expect substantial revenues over many years. In addition, practically all of the leased land can be used the way it originally was once the wind power turbine is in place.