Origins of Wind Energy

Renewable energy, especially wind energy, has become a crucial component of the global energy transition. As early as 5,000 BC, people were using wind energy to power boats along the Nile River. By 200 BC, small wind-powered water pumps were in use in China, and windmills in Persia and the Middle East were used to process grain.

The first wind turbine of modern conception has been constructed back to 1887. Yet wind energy is a renewable energy source that is considered crucial to fight climate change, simply obtained by the rotation of blades moved by the wind, activating a turbine that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy. Currently, wind energy generation corresponds to 16% of the European Energy Mix, which is equals to 448,97 TWh in 2022 of electricity production. Wind remains the leading non-hydro renewable technology worldwide, generating 1,870 TWh in 2021, almost as much as all the others combined.

Onshore vs. Offshore Wind Technology

Nowadays, in the market there are two main different technologies that make up the wind energy sector. Firstly, it is important to make a differentiation between onshore and offshore wind technology which produce electricity from the same source, yet where they generate this energy from is the key difference between the two. According to a report by Grand View Research, the onshore segment dominated the wind power market and held revenues share of 71.66% in 2021. To explain even further, onshore wind generation refers to the installation of wind turbines on land, typically in areas with favourable wind conditions, such as open plains, hilltops, or coastal regions. While offshore wind generation involves the installation of wind turbines in bodies of water, typically in coastal areas or offshore locations further out at sea.

The reason why onshore wind energy production represents the majority is mainly due to the cost effectiveness component (lower upfront costs and operational costs compared to offshore wind) and the established infrastructure found in Europe (benefitting from existing electrical grids). Onshore wind has many limitations that correspond to the main advantages of offshore wind farms. Indeed, the limited land space that is possible to utilize for wind energy production, is opening a wider market for offshore wind turbines providing: 1) no land limitation; 2) larger turbines generating more power; 3) stronger and consistent wind speeds; 4) location: when being miles out from the coast, offshore turbines have less impact on people’s lives.

Leading Regions in Wind Energy Development

Europe is a leading region in the development and exploitation of both onshore and offshore wind generation. For onshore wind generation: Germany has been a leader for many years especially in the regions of Schleswig-Holstein and, Lower Saxony; in Spain, regions such as Castilla y León, Galicia, and Andalusia. It is important also to consider the areas of The United Kingdom, France and Italy.

Several countries have made significant progress in harnessing their offshore wind resources. The most exploited areas for offshore wind in Europe are found in The United Kingdom (UK) making it a pioneer with the largest installation capacity including the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. Additionally, Germany leads areas like the German Bight and the Baltic Sea. Denmark has a long history of offshore wind energy as well and is home to the world’s first offshore wind farm. Other countries are also relevant: The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Norway.

It is important to consider that the floating offshore wind will have a significant role in exploring deeper waters, where fixed-bottom structures are not feasible. One of the main areas that would have to be discovered in Europe is the Mediterranean Sea, therefore, France, Spain, Italy and Greece are evaluating these areas to further improve electricity production from wind energy.

Why Wind Energy Matters

Wind energy developments refer to the advancements, installations, growth of wind power infrastructure and technologies. It encompasses the establishment of wind farms, the development of more efficient turbines, improvements in transmission and grid integration, as well as the expansion of renewable energy policies. In conclusion, Wind energy matters for several reasons:

  • Renewable Energy Transition: as the world grapples with climate change and the need to mitigate its effects, wind power plays a crucial role in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
  • Energy Security and Independence: wind energy diversifies the energy mix, reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.
  • Job Creation and Economic Growth: wind energy developments create jobs throughout the value chain, including manufacturing, construction, operation, and maintenance.
  • Rural and Coastal Development: wind farms often stimulate economic development in rural and coastal areas supporting local business.
  • Grid Stability and Resilience: combining wind energy with other renewable sources and implementing smart grid technologies helps balance power supply and demand, increasing grid reliability.
  • Global Energy Access: in regions without access to reliable electricity grids, wind energy can be a viable solution.