In the last 15 years, wind power has moved from a technology that attracted only a few investors to one that attracts broad-based investments throughout the EU. Installed wind power capacity in the EU has increased six-fold – from 2.4 per cent in 2000 to 15.6 per cent in 2015. The total wind power capacity installed at the end of 2015 stands at 142 GW, which covers 11.4 per cent of the EU electricity consumption.
Germany and Spain the largest wind power countries in Europe
Germany and Spain are Europe's largest wind power countries in terms of installed capacity, comprising one third and one sixth of Europe's wind power, respectively. The global leader is China, with a third of the world’s wind power capacity.
In terms of wind power's share of total electricity generation, Denmark is one of the world's leading wind power countries. In 2015, Denmark produced 42 per cent of the country’s electricity from wind turbines, breaking its own world record of 39 per cent in 2014.
Wind power in Europe – installed capacity over time
Source: European Wind Energy Association
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Wind needs balancing power
Wind turbines can only produce electricity when the wind speed is right. On occasions when the wind is not strong enough, other types of energy are used as balancing power.
To plan, obtain permissions for, and build a wind farm is a long process in most European countries. A project may take anywhere from two to 15 years from initial planning to construction start, depending mainly on planning permissions.
In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between three key dimensions: competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment and climate. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions. This energy triangle illustrates the pros and cons of wind power.
Climate and environment: Wind power is a renewable energy source that emits essentially no CO2 across its life cycle. Wind turbines do have an impact on the landscape, and also emit noise, which some people find disturbing.
Security of supply: Wind resources are renewable. But wind power is dependent on available wind, and excessively high wind speeds require temporary stops in electricity generation. New wind power developments therefore focus on areas with reliable and predictable winds.
Competitiveness: Wind power has no fuel costs, though total cost per produced kilowatt hour is high due to significant investment costs and the need for network capacity investments for new wind farms. Today, wind power is therefore largely dependent on support systems. Investments for offshore wind farms are three times higher than for land-based ones. Technological development and an increasing price of CO2 emissions will make wind power more cost-competitive.