In my last piece for HuffPo Green, I looked at how much solar power was potentially available to us. One image I used showed the total number of solar energy hitting the Earth totally dwarfing humanity's current energy usage. But in between was another, smaller but still quite big, amount to represent wind power.
Today, I'd like us to look at that second form of clean energy: Wind power. Lets look at some success stories from around the world, the kind of news that might not get a lot of coverage in the big media, but that are worth knowing about if we want to know where we stand. We'll also look at how the wind power industry is doing. Basically, lets look at both supply and demand.
Wind Power Success Stories
Lets start small, literally. Residential wind power has been growing at a rapid pace, with dozens of new companies entering the market just since 2000. ABout 6 of them dominate, but the American Wind Energy Association tracks about 45 of them. For the US, small wind represents about 3 megawatts in 2007, a small amount, but that's three times more than in 2006. A few more years of exponential growth and we'll be talking big numbers.
If we go up in scale to something a bit bigger, the University of Pennsylvania became #1 in the US for wind power usage, with purchases of about 200,000 megawatt-hours per year, or about half of total electricity use.
Up another level, we find the energy independent town of Rock Port, Missouri. Wind power has produced 123% of electricity demand! Not surprisingly, that makes them #1 in the US for percentage of renewable energy. They are selling the extra to neighboring towns.
Still going up to something bigger, this time a whole country. Last year Spain hit a wind power production record, hitting 27% of total consumption, or 10,032 megawatts. That was during a week day, so depending how you count, a different record was broken this year on a weekend with 9,862 megawatts of power adding up to 40.8% of total electricity consumption in Spain. Not too shabby.
Finally, on the scale of a whole continent: Norway's energy minister wants to invest oil money into building offshore wind farms. Norway has the longest coast in Europe and lots of wind, so couple with their hydro power, this wind power could become 'Europe's battery'. When the wind blows, you get when power and you turn off the hydro dams. When the wind doesn't blow, you can use the stored water to generate hydro power.
I think this is enough for today. In a future article, we'll look at some of the latest developments in the wind power industry.