From solar energy to hydroelectric power, renewable energy is fast becoming a significant power source for countries big and small. While solar energy can be harnessed almost anywhere with direct sunlight, hydroelectric power generated as long as there is a big enough river, wind energy requires the most physical open space and a really windy environment – that’s why you won’t be seeing wind energy anytime soon in Singapore!
In this article, we continue our series to take you through the world of renewable energy with wind energy and the top 5 countries that are harnessing it to power their daily lives.
How Exactly Can Wind Generate Electricity?
Think of your household fan, you use electricity to make it spin and generate wind to cool you down. Now for a wind turbine, this works the exact opposite way! The wind turbines are placed at a very high elevation allowing the wind to turn and spin the blades, which then turns a shaft that is connected to a generator that makes electricity. Very simple hor!
But did you know that wind energy is a result of the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the earth and the irregularities of the earth’s surface? This means that the wind flow patterns vary greatly across each country, allowing us to harness its energy for electricity.
The most popular wind turbine we all know of is the horizontal-axis wind turbine with 3 blades facing into the wind. These turbines can not only be built on land but also offshore in large bodies of water that includes even the ocean. In terms of sizes, these wind turbines vary greatly but the standard GE model used today sits atop a tower of almost 65 metres with blades that are 35 metres long!
The Top 5 Countries That Generate Electricity From Wind
China holds a capacity of 149 GW of wind power in 2016 generating 241 TWh of electricity that contributed to around 4% of the total national electricity consumption. Considering China’s exploding population, that is rather substantial!
China’s huge land mass and long coastline mean the country has an excellent potential to harness even more wind power, in fact in 2017 alone 19.7 GW of capacity was installed, double than that of any other market.
#2 United States
In 2017, the wind market in the states installed over 7 GW of capacity in addition to their 82 GW existing facilities. However, like most countries, wind energy isn’t evenly distributed and varies widely according to where the states are at – midwest and central American states with more land are prime candidates for wind energy potential.
Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma lead the nation with 33.5 GW of wind energy capacity. One of the world’s best wind turbine manufacturers, General Electric, is American and had around 60% of the US wind power market share in 2014.
Known for their efficiency and manufacturing prowess, it is no surprise Germany leads Europe when it comes for installed wind power. With a growing shift to more renewable energy, the installed capacity in 2017 totaled 55.6 GW with it contributing a whopping 18.7% to the country’s total electricity generation!
Germany also has multiple offshore wind power installations to take advantage of the increased wind speeds near the sea. This allows the nation to capitalise on approximately 70 to 100% higher wind speeds with the wind also being more consistent in generating electricity.
The second Asian country to top the charts, India ended 2017 with a record of 4 GW new wind power capacity to clock in an impressive 34.3 GW of wind power in 2018. Wind energy in India accounts for only 3% of their total electricity generation and a majority of the wind energy, 70% in fact, is generated during the 5 month period of May to September monsoon season.
Topping the European charts with Germany, Spain is the world’s 5th largest producer of wind energy with an installed capacity of 23 GW by end 2015. However, due to the fallout of the financial crisis, Spain’s wind sector has stagnated with capacity increasing by a mere 1.3 GW. Still, Spain holds tremendous potential for the development of wind power where windy days can allow wind power generation to surpass all other electricity sources in the nation!
Is Wind Power The Best Green Energy Out There?
While wind power has tremendous benefits and can be utilised onshore and offshore, 24/7, there are some drawbacks that make them only suitable for a select few countries.
- A huge amount of land is required to be dedicated to wind power installations.
- High capital costs and investment, making it rather unsuitable for countries that have economic challenges.
- Countries near the sea with long coastlines will benefit more from wind energy as ocean windspeed is faster and more consistent.
- There is a threat to wildlife such as birds and bats.
- Wind turbines contribute to noise and visual pollution, essentially turning the land utilised to be uninhabitable by people.
Believing In Green Energy
While Singapore can’t adopt wind power due to our land space, we are strong advocates of going green and even you today as a resident can help do your part!
At iSwitch all of our energy plans are green energy, that means the electricity you purchase from iSwitch has zero environmental impact and is completely 100% carbon neutral!
To learn more about our price plans go here
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