Weather shows need to change

Those of us who work in the renewables industry largely understand the difference between weather and climate. When someone does something as crass as taking a snowball on to the floor of the US Senate to "prove" that global warming is a hoax (that was senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma in the winter of 2015, by the way), we tend to roll our eyes and move on to something more enlightening.

But 2018’s weather, pretty much everywhere, has been extraordinary. The thickest ice in the Arctic has broken up for the first time in recorded history.

Huge forest fires of the kind that have ripped through California this summer are by no means unknown, but they are somewhat rarer in Siberia, where 100,000km2 of woodland blazed in July, with the smoke carried on the jet stream all the way to Canada.

Japan declared its summer heatwave a natural disaster. Temperatures above 40oC were registered in Tokyo for the first time.

Deaths from heatstroke have been numbered in the hundreds, hospital admittances in the tens of thousands.

This may still be weather rather than climate, but at the very least it’s a taste of what anthropogenic climate change is likely to look like.

Wind power can play an important role in preventing our planet from hitting an irreversible tipping point.

In this issue, we take an in-depth look at two new turbine designs, from Enercon and Nordex, that promise significant benefits in energy yield and operational costs.

These new platforms demonstrate the astonishing rate of progress in wind-power technology. Onshore turbines of nearly 5MW capacity with rotor diameters pushing 150 metres, were pie-in-the-sky stuff only a few years ago.

Now they are close to becoming mainstream.

Oil, gas, nuclear, and, least of all so-called "clean coal", are not making the same technological progress. Wind power’s biggest rival in terms of energy generation is increasingly becoming solar PV.

But technology plays a very secondary role in this debate. Political will, industrial muscle, and vested interests drive the agenda.

Spreading the word

This month's WindEnergy Hamburg has to provide the forum to take this debate outside the wind industry and into a broader discussion about countering climate change.

If we just spend the time confirming the benefits of wind power to ourselves, rather than converting the unconvinced, it will be an opportunity wasted.

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