What alternative does wind power represent to fossil fuels? It is a renewable, clean source of energy, and when harnessed by windmills represents the epitome of eco-friendly energy. Thanks to advances in technology, windmills have grown considerably in size over the last few years, now reaching more than 320 feet (100 meters) in diameter; this has also made them more powerful. A large windmill can produce more than 1 megawatt of energy, enough to meet the demands of a thousand European inhabitants (excepting heating). This also saves around 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year. The most powerful windmills are located out at sea, where the winds are stronger and more reliable, and where they don’t impact the landscape. These models can generate 5 megawatts of energy.
Wind turbine installations are growing by 30% per year. They already account for around 20% of the electricity produced in Denmark, 10% in Spain and Portugal, and 7% in Germany and Ireland. However, on a global scale, power generated by wind is still rare and only represents 1.5% of electricity consumption.
How much further will it be able to develop? Probably no more than in Denmark, since wind power cannot completely supplant other sources of energy: after all, it is dependent on weather conditions. Windmills do not operate continuously, and cannot be relied on at times of peak consumption. They must be combined with other more versatile forms of energy. This, in fact, is true of all renewable energies. Individually, none of them can replace oil. But together they can create an “energy mix” that, alongside energy-saving measures, can help economies reduce their dependency on polluting fossil fuels.
With a rapid growth rate set to continue over the coming years, the wind power sector is also creating jobs: today it employs 150,000 people worldwide, potentially rising to over 300,000 by 2020. It’s an excellent example of the additional benefits an environmental policy can bring in terms of economic development, technology, research, and jobs: these are “green careers.“