Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Growing Pains of the Wind Industry

The wind power industry is evolving rapidly and in 2007 we are seeing many changes. The wind sector is growing quickly and reaching new countries. At the same time, several developments have taken place which are having an impact on all aspects of the energy industry. Wind power is no longer in its infancy. From being a small, even marginal energy source, wind is now entering the main stream of energy development and is poised to become a significant contributor of non-base load energy. The rate of annual growth increased up to a 5 year CAGR of 28.5% in 2004 and dropped slightly to 26.3% in 2006. This has been faster than the initial growth of hydro capacity and during the last five years new wind capacity has been growing at double the rate of nuclear capacity.

There has been a great deal of debate in the last two or three years about various technical aspects of wind power. New information about the power delivery and environmental parameters of wind power has now become available and it raises a number of important questions. This information is based on the operational experience of the largest and most experienced wind power grid operators. The debate is now entering a new phase. At the beginning the response from much of the wind industry and its lobbyists was to label these questions as ‘myths’, many of them still do. The quality of the argumentation by the wind power promoters has been poor and there has been a lack of balanced analysis. The new dimension to the debate is that it is focused more on seeking solutions rather than denying that problems exist. Several years of large scale generating experience by leading network operators have revealed important characteristics of wind power operation and produced a body of empirical evidence. These reports come from the USA, Germany (E.ON, largest wind operator in the world), Denmark (Eltra), Ireland (ESB), Spain and Portugal.

The most important of these concern the following areas:

Wind power capacity factors

Intermittency or variability of wind

Mis-match of wind power supply and demand

Inadequacy of weather forecasting

The difficulty of balancing the grid because of the variability of wind

Demands on the grid

Credit capacity



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