Wind available and affordable -- IEA study

Three-quarters of the world's expected demand for electricity in 2020, 18,000 TWh a year, could be met by large and small onshore wind power plant at a cost of under $0.05/kWh, according to an International Energy Agency study on the potential of wind energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, large onshore wind farms have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by four billion tonnes (1.1 billion tonnes of carbon) by 2020, at an average cost of $20 a tonne ($73 per tonne of carbon). With carbon emissions by that date expected to reach ten billion tonnes a year, according to the US Energy Information Administration, wind could thus reduce emissions by about 11%.

These are just some of the findings of a study, The Potential of Wind Energy to Reduce CO2 Emissions, released at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the global climate change protocol held in The Hague in November (Windpower Monthly, January 2001). Although the primary objective of the authors, British consultants Garrad Hassan and Norwegian Econ Consulting, is to calculate the costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the study yields a wealth of data on the global wind resource and the costs of exploiting it.

Onshore wind farms could secure 400 TWh of electricity in the EU by 2020 at a cost of under $0.04/kWh, or provide 50% of current electricity consumption at mostly under $0.06/kWh after allowances are made for all environmental and other constraints. Offshore wind energy, however, is likely to be considerably more expensive: securing 400 TWh from offshore wind plant could only be achieved at a marginal cost of around $0.10/kWh, according to the study. It assumes, though, that plant costs will only fall by 2.2% a year, which is probably overly conservative.

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