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Worldwide Wind Resources Assessment

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Context - Wind blows everywhere on the planet, and can be converted to electricity by wind turbines.

How much wind power capacity is there in the world?

This is a faithful summary of the leading report produced in 2014 by World Wind Energy Association (WWEA): "World Wind Resource Assessment Report " 

  • Source document:WWEA (2014)
  • Summary & Details: GreenFacts

Introduction

Winds blow everywhere on our planet, they carry part of the energy we receive from the sun through the movement of air masses. Uneven heating of earth’s surface and varying air pressure differences (depression and anticyclone) cause air movement or the wind as we experience it.

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of the wind to electrical energy. The development of wind energy is driven by three important challenges: energy security, climate change with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and energy access. In some parts of the world it is up to 40% of the energy that is provided by wind power. Some countries like Denmark, Spain, Northern Germany, parts of Texas or southern India have wind penetration levels as high as 40%.

In this context this report tries to answer the question: ‘how much capacity and how much energy from wind is there in the world?’ The Wind Resource Assessment (WRA) is the most important aspect of the entire business of harnessing wind energy or wind power development. It enables for example selection of the appropriate type of wind turbine design for deployment at a given location or in a region.

What is the global evolution of the wind energy production?

Over the last 50-60 years, electricity generation has grown in most parts of the world, the steepest growth being in developing countries. Balancing energy access, economic development and environmental sustainability is going to be a major challenge for the whole global community.

As of June 2014, about 337 GW wind power generation capacity has been set up in the world, representing less than 10% of total energy production capacity, but it clearly becomes an important part of the mainstream electricity sector.

Can wind energy play a significant role in a global energy supply perspective?

The realizable offshore and onshore potential for wind energy utilization, combined with, solar, hydro, biomass and storage technologies and devices, is sufficient to meet electricity requirements of the entire world many times over. Thus, it would even be possible to phase out nuclear and fossil fuel based generating stations.

The total wind potential of the world, as identified by these existing studies, is 95 million Megawatt or 95 Terawatt, which is by itself sufficient to cover the world’s energy demand; the identified wind potential could even almost cover it twice.

Of course, the actual deployment of a very large wind capacity will depend on smart integration into energy supply structures, combination with other renewable technologies, storage options, demand-side management etc.

Can wind energy already protect from energy shortages?

The regions of the world that face energy resources constraints are also the regions where wind energy has been utilized to the largest extent. Electricity access is going to be one of the main drivers of wind power development in the countries that have enough wind resources.

Europe, India, China & US together account for 93% of the total wind power installed capacity. India, with a heavy and growing dependence on imported fossil fuels, achieved nearly 21 GW of cumulative installed capacity of wind power by 2014 and China has emerged as the leading country with more than 91 GW of wind farmed capacity. Despite high wind potential, the installed capacity in Africa was only 1.1 GW in 2011.

Can wind energy play an important role in a climate change perspective?

Wind energy offers significant potential for near-term (2020) and long-term (2050) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. The need to reduce GHG emissions is yet another major driver and a compelling reason for countries to set up wind power plants. The countries and regions that face energy security issues also face the challenge of environmental sustainability in planning their future energy mix.

How can the wind potential of a region be estimated?

The question of wind energy potential is important from different perspectives :

  • How much electricity can be generated from wind ?
  • For how long?
  • How much energy from wind may be generated in a given period of time?

These are the most important aspects of wind power development that this Wind Resource Assessment’ (WRA) report tries to answer.

The techniques of undertaking WRA at project level differ from the techniques and approaches to assess the resource on a regional or a meso-scale. Wind resource assessments uses wind maps and computer modelling to simulate the performance of wind installations. At project level, it enables developers and investors to take a “ go”/ “no go” decision and at a national or regional level, it allows for informed decision making.

At international level, there are now many other agencies also involved in developing wind maps for different parts of the World. For example Energy Sector Management and Assistance Program (ESMAP) of the World Bank is currently involved in developing these maps for different regions, a major focus being Africa. Similarly other international organizations and foundations are also involved in supporting such regional assessments.


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