Francesco Mazzagatti on The Growth of Global Wind Power

The global production of wind power is forecast to rapidly expand over the next ten years, both due to a more receptive political market and rapid advances in technology. At a time where the climate and energy production are issues at the forefront of international politics, this is an announcement that could have deeply significant consequences for the future. Both onshore and offshore wind capacity is expected to grow, with slight decreases in European and Indian energy production being offset by large-scale expansion in America and China.

A report from Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has forecast that there will be a 60% growth in cumulative global wind power capacity in the next five years, with China dominating the market. Wood Mackenzie estimate that additions to global wind power capacity will sit at an annual average of 71 gigawatts from 2019–2023, growing slightly to an average of 76 gigawatts from 2024–2028. Current global energy production from wind sits at 515 GW, split between 497 GW coming from onshore wind and 18 GW from offshore wind. As of 2017, wind power made up 4.4% of the global energy supply. It is predicted to have doubled this share by 2028. This is an incredible rapid increase by the historical standards of energy source consumption, in comparison it took oil 45 years to grow to reach 10% of global energy production. There are multiple reasons why such an increase is possible, foremost among them the success that wind power has had in establishing itself as a proven source of power with a stable global supply chain.

The Wood Mackenzie report highlights recent economic development that they believe will spur this surge in global wind power, particularly in the United States and in China. North American wind power focuses on onshore development, with there being 56,600 turbines currently operational in the continental United States. Investment into wind power is being strongly encouraged by the proposed phaseout of the federal Renewable Energy Tax Credit in 2022, encouraging growth and investment to try and benefit from it while it is still active. In China, currently the global leader in both on- and offshore wind power is similarly entering a ‘subsidy-free’ period for wind power from 2021, so there is predicted to be a parallel flurry of wind farms being built. There is also a predicted surge in growth in South America, not an area where wind power has traditionally flourished. Brazil in particular, is set to see a growth of 3.7% in wind power due to the market liberalisation policies of the new government, with the rest of the continent predicted to see an average growth rate of 11.3% in wind power production up to 2028.

Underlying these economic policies are significant developments in wind power technology. Turbines are set to become more and more efficient and productive, with advances in lightening blades allowing the construction of much bigger, and so much more productive turbines. This is especially significant for the development of offshore wind, as it will allow more power to be produced without having to drastically increase the number of turbines. The development of 3D printing is also seen as a way of cutting down production costs, not only of the turbines and blades themselves, but for the moulds and templates needed to build them. Alongside this is the development of hybrid renewable energy systems, combining solar and wind power production. This in particular incentivises development due to the economic benefits of solar energy for investors, such as a federal tax credit of 30% in America and will continue to be an attractive option even after the wind power tax credit ends.

Wind power is a fast-growing industry and one with great potential across the globe. This predicted surge in global energy production from it, especially in typically hydrocarbon favouring countries, show be seen as a deeply positive sign for the future of renewable energy. The technology of wind power will only continue to get more efficient and cheaper to use, and economic conditions are favourable to the growth of the industry. At a time of uncertainty about the future of energy production, wind power is leading the way in creating sustainable power.

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