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A recently built wind farm in West Virginia churns out power on a windy day. The U.S. took the lead in 2008 for highest wind production of any country, and is closing on the lead for solar.  (Source: Baltimore Sun)

The gains in wind and solar raise the need for efficient storage technologies as they are variable power sources. More efficient production and installation techniques must be developed, and much more research must be done to make the technologies cost competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear power, as well.  (Source: Inhabitat)
"The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

In 2007, Germany was the leader of the world for total wind production.  However, in 2008, the U.S. was perched in the top spot thanks to strong growth.  The data also indicated that sometime this year, the U.S. will seize the lead in installed solar power.  The newly released figures represent the U.S.'s growing thirst for alternative power.

The U.S. increased its wind capacity by 50 percent last year to a total of 25 GW, enough to power nearly 5 million homes.  Germany took a close second with 24 GW of installed wind, while Spain took the third spot.  China took fourth place, but posted even larger growth than the U.S., more than doubling its capacity for the fourth year running.  If China continues this pace of growth, it will soon overtake the U.S. in capacity.

Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council, who released the figures, cheered the findings.  He states, "Governments must send a strong and unequivocal signal that the age of fossil fuels is over."

Globally wind power grew by 29 percent, to reach 121 GW total capacity.  As one of the most affordable sources of alternative energy -- being only slightly more expensive than coal and nuclear -- wind accounted for 42 percent of the new energy installations in the U.S.  Mr. Sawyer says this figure emphasizes wind power's competitive nature.

Currently, the wind power industry is slumping due to falling oil prices and a weakened economy.  The industry does have some protection thanks to subsidies and energy taxes, such as the guaranteed price premium in Germany and Spain.  Such initiatives have softened the blow dealt by the economy to the industry.

The new stimulus package that's being debated in the House and Senate would increase the amount of alternative energy tax breaks in the U.S. by $31B USD.  The tax breaks would help President Obama's administration achieve its target of double U.S. alternative energy production in three years.  The EU wants to increase its amount of alternative energy from 10 percent of the total energy production to 25 percent by 2020.

A separate analysis, conducted by Jefferies analyst Michael McNamara showed that the U.S., boosted by its sunnier climate, will overtake Germany this year in solar power production.  Solar power is still very costly, but increased mass production and new technologies have helped to slow drop the costs.

The continued growth of wind and solar, variable power sources, worldwide raises the necessity of efficient storage technologies.  Most storage technologies are still in their infancy, with many being prohibitively expensive.

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RE: Dubious honor
By LRonaldHubbs on 2/5/2009 10:57:19 AM , Rating: 4
Actually, I think the windmills look awesome. Drive along Rt81 in PA some time, and you'll see windmills on the hilltops near Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton. I've also seen the ones along the lake edge in Buffalo, NY. Both of these examples enhance the skyline IMO. I would gladly live near a windfarm.

You're also exaggerating though. Nobody is talking about covering the landscape with turbines. They are only getting installed in places where it makes sense. And as for power lines, yeah they are unappealing to look at, but what would you prefer exactly? Many places that actually have a decent landscape to look at are far enough out of the way that it isn't worthwhile to run the lines underground, because nobody wants to pay to do it. New developments often get wired underground and so do towns, but in between it's strung together above ground for reasons of practicality.

Regardless of what you think of the appearance, these are things you have to live with if you want modern conveniences. We've been looking at power/telephone lines and radio/tv antennas for longer than I've been alive, as well as cell towers in recent years. And how about jet trails in the sky...what other aesthetic matters should we complain about today? Compared to these things that we have already accepted, can you honestly say that windmills are any worse?

RE: Dubious honor
By Moishe on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By Spuke on 2/5/2009 4:17:44 PM , Rating: 2
More than 50% think they're ugly. DTers are a fringe element and really aren't representative of the majority view. You would have to ask a few regular (non-computer geek) people what they would think about it. Honestly, there's already proof of how people feel already. Research were any structure is built near residential areas and the public outcry (NIMBY) that usually results.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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