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Wind could install 1,200 GW to meet shortfall in fossil fuels

Sep 13, 2006 - Refocus Weekly

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The world’s wind industry could install 1,200 GW of turbines by 2030 to meet the shortfall in oil and gas supplies, suggests the Global Wind Energy Council and Renewable Energy Systems.

“The world’s energy resources are not sufficient to sustain expected growth trends,” they conclude in ‘Plugging the Gap - A survey of world fuel resources and their impact on the development of wind energy.’ The report was written by Francisco Varela of RES as part of his studies for EUREC Agency’s European Master in Renewable Energy and peer-reviewed by Oxera.

“A growing gap is developing between energy demand and the available supply of oil and gas; high energy prices are here to stay and the world’s energy mix will change,” it states. “An unforeseen and additional potential will become available to wind energy as a result of gas supply limitations; up to 1,200 GW of extra capacity could potentially be installed by 2030 as wind power enters its ‘market era’ sooner than expected.”

The report shows that many forecasts have considerably overestimated global reserves of oil and gas, and rebutes predictions by the International Energy Agency that 60% of global energy could still be provided by oil and gas by 2030, with demand for electricity doubling. It estimates that production of oil could peak in eight years and gas in 25, “with prices rising steeply well in advance of this.”

While coal could last until the end of the century and could increase its share of energy supply, the report says the combustion of coal for large-scale power generation will only be acceptable if clean coal technologies are developed, which still have cost and technological barriers. As a result, a serious shortfall between demand and supply could become evident by 2010, with a 10% shortfall by 2020 and an 18% shortfall by 2030.

“Wind energy has been the fastest growing energy source of the last decade, at an annual global rate of 28%,” the report notes. “The growth of this zero-carbon, fuel-free and indigenous energy source has been driven by environmental and, to an increasing extent, energy security concerns.”

The installed global capacity of wind has exceeded 60 GW, more than two thirds in Europe, and GWEC forecasts that capacity will reach 135 GW by 2010 and that 1,000 GW of wind could be installed by 2020 “if significant policy changes are implemented,” it explains. Natural gas can support only 400 GW of the 1,600 GW of new gas-fired power capacity additions planned until 2030, leaving a gap of 1,200 GW for other power sources.

“Thus, the gas offers an enormous additional potential for wind power that was not foreseen in the GWEC’s wind capacity forecasts,” and that potential can technically be realized but will require “continuing development of policies to facilitate more substantial integration of wind energy into the generation mix,” it adds. “Market dynamics will end up raising gas prices in a way that will make wind energy cost-competitive as fuel costs account for 70% of the generation cost of Combined Cycle Gas Turbines; although wind power would have to vie against other alternatives for this new market, it clearly stands in a privileged position as one of the most cost-effective and most environmentally acceptable energy technologies.”

“The world’s energy resources are diminishing and the rate of decline of oil and gas is faster than official estimates suggest,” the report concludes. “Huge opportunities exist for the gas gap to be filled with wind, a safe, carbon-neutral, economic, fuel-free and indigenous energy resource that can help meet national environmental and energy security targets.”

GWEC member associations represent 1,500 companies in 50 countries and 99% of the world’s 59,000 MW of installed wind capacity.