Wind energy to surge by 2030, but grid constrains

Wind energy will increase to generate between 5 and 22 percent of world power by 2030.

Last Updated: Oct 12, 2010, 09:24 AM IST

Wind energy will increase to generate between 5 and 22 percent of world power by 2030 and countries need to do more to expand electricity grids to cope, a study by pro-wind groups showed on Tuesday.

The report, by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and environmental group Greenpeace, also said nations in Latin America and Africa were shifting to wind alongside established markets in Europe, North America, China and India.

It said wind turbines accounted for about 2.3 percent of world electricity demand in 2010. Growth in China had outpaced previous projections by GWEC and Greenpeace but the United States had lagged, partly because of the economic downturn.

"We are still very optimistic, but grid issues are becoming more and more important for the wind industry," said Sven Teske, senior energy expert at Greenpeace. Grid capacity was lacking in many nations.

The study said wind would rise to 5 percent of world electricity demand by 2030, or 1,400 terawatt hours (TWh), assuming 2009 reference scenarios by the International Energy Agency, which foresee a slowdown in wind growth in coming years.

In the most positive investment scenario, GWEC and Greenpeace said wind could generate up to 22 percent of global power by 2030, or 5,400 TWh, if the world took strong action to promote renewables.

GWEC`s corporate members include Vestas, Siemens, GE Energy, Gamesa and Sinovel.

The report said there were big uncertainties about the future of stalled U.N. talks on a new treaty to slow global warming that would promote investments in renewables in a shift from fossil fuels.

TURBINE EVERY 30 MINUTES

Teske said that the wind industry was erecting one new wind turbine every 30 minutes, with one in three in China. He said Greenpeace and GWEC wanted a new turbine every 7 minutes to reach the highest goal.

He said Germany was likely to be among the first nations to face problems of grid capacity with new offshore wind turbines coming on stream. He said the country lacked power transmission lines to take electricity south from the coast.

"It`s not a limiting factor now but it could be within the next five years or so," he said.

The report also said that China was among nations that needed to do more.

"In China ... the grid infrastructure is proving to be a serious issue, especially in areas with high wind speeds, such as the Northwest, the North and the Northeast," it said.

Teske said that wind was getting more investments in some developing nations. "We see that there is movement both in Latin America and in Africa, in some every unexpected places like Kenya, Egypt or Eritrea," he said.

Bureau Report