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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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Wind Meisters lying once again
By theBike45 on 2/5/2009 6:42:53 PM , Rating: 2
I'm amazed at both the ignorance and unethical behavior of those pushing crappy wind power. They make comparison with technologies such as nuclear using "rated capacities" and ignoring powe generator lifespan, incidental costs , etc.
As to how many windmills are required to replace one nuclear plant, the answer is that this is not possible. Nuclear plants can produce reliable power, and typcially run at close to (or even above 100% of their rated capacity) while windmills produce at between 18 and 37% typcally. Even the claim of US superiority over Germany is suspect, since Germany has many more offshore windmills, which produce lots more juice than out onshore variety.
A typical nuclear plant will produce bwteen 1250 and 1700 megawatts. For 60 years. A windmill will typically produce less than 1/2 megawatt. For 20 years. So you're going to need bwteen 2500 and 4000 windmills to equal the gross output of one nuclear plant. Unfortunately, windmills typically can only produce 2% of rated capacity during peak demand, which means those 2500 windmills cannot replace one single dispatchable generator (usually coal powered). There are also increases fossil fuel burning required whenever
variable inputs like wind are foolishly alowed to infect a grid. Wind totally sucks - and costs 5 to 7 times more to build than those supposedly expensive nuclear plants. Current nuclear power costs less than just the direct money subsidies given to wind operators, not counting the costs of tax writeoffs.

By werepossum on 2/5/2009 8:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the problems with the grid and windmills can be solved by switching to electronically controlled switching electric transmissions buffered with capacitors or gas generators rather than using mechanical transmissions and fixed pole generators, and we have lots more coastline than Germany (although we do have to find sections with no powerful liberals to kill wind farms.)

I like nuclear, but it's not perfect either. It needs lots of cooling water and adds lots of waste heat to the cooling water reservoir.

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