Why size does matter

WORLDWIDE: When we embarked on our worldwide quest for the largest wind projects in the pipeline, we knew we were looking for trouble. Now that wind power is no longer a niche sector with a handful of players operating in a dozen countries, keeping track of projects sprouting up across the globe is hard enough. Trying to predict how the industry will develop, even within a relatively short timescale, is seriously tricky.

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Even after immersing ourselves in the copious data stored in our Windpower Intelligence database and laboriously double-checking each project for accuracy, we still cannot be sure all the projects listed will actually come online in 2011-12. Nor can we guarantee that their details will be exactly as we believed at the time of gathering the information.

And yet, we believe there is value in pulling together these projects and building a narrative around them. Their attraction does not lie just in the sheer awe some of these mega plants engender. Large projects teach us new lessons, open up previously untrodden paths, raise expectations of cheaper wind energy and foster ambition.

They pose fresh challenges across the spectrum: from engineering to financial, from political to logistical. As the capacity of turbines grows, a wind farm generating more than 100MW of wind power will not require as many turbines as it would once have done. But it will face a new and different host of permitting hurdles and local opposition.

When a plan is in place for large amounts of power to hit the grid, connection issues suddenly take centre stage. New problems call for new solutions. And when vast sums of money are required to bring a project to completion, more creative forms of finance appear on the scene.

Ultimately, what these large projects promise to do is to sort the men from the boys and, in doing so, offer a true insight into the shape of things to come.

Nadia Weekes is editor of Windpower Monthly

Big enough? Criteria for inclusion

Minimum size for a project to be included:

  • North America 250MW
  • Asia-Pacific 200MW
  • Europe 100MW
  • Emerging markets 100MW

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