Far-reaching technological development has taken place since the first wind power stations were constructed in the late 1970s. Today, the blades are 16 times larger and wind farms produce 100 times more electricity.
More wind power built offshore
One reason for the increase in turbine size is that more wind power facilities are being built offshore. Offshore locations offer higher wind speeds, and lower risks of conflict with nearby residents. At the close of 2015, offshore wind power accounted for approximately five per cent of the EU's total wind power resources. Forecasts indicate that offshore wind power will be greater than land-based by around 2030.
Research and development focus on wind farm optimisation, increased reliability and cost efficiency. There are also ambitions to reduce wind power's dependence on maintenance and to make it easier to assemble. Further standardization and digitalization of maintenance and data management will be a key area as well.
Focus on operational reliability
Operational reliability is an important challenge. A wind turbine has a useful life of approximately 20 years, and must produce electricity during most of this time to be profitable. Disturbances must also be kept at a minimum; repairs or replacement of vital parts reduces availability and directly impacts profitability. The highest safety standards are required to build and operate wind farms.
Extensive research is also being conducted on future electricity grids, as increased wind power generation will place new demands on functionality.
EU continues to invest in wind power
Wind power is expected to account for 14 per cent of electricity consumed within the EU by 2020. The European Commission has initiated a research programme aimed at improving the technological performance of turbines while improving economic conditions. The research programme comprises of six billion EUR until 2020.