Such diversity makes interesting reading. But it also suggests that different sections of the wind movement might be looking in different directions. Ten years on from the California wind rush -- and having achieved many of its early goals on price and government support -- is wind energy losing direction? On the one hand our columnists come with firm admonishments to get costs down, to make wind turbines acceptable to the public, and to beware the lurking monster of deregulation. On the other hand, anxiety is expressed about selling wind power too cheap, scorn is poured on those who feel wind turbines should be made invisible in the countryside, and praise is heaped on deregulation for opening the market to independent wind producers.
Directionless is perhaps too harsh a word, but the wind movement certainly seems a little uncertain of where it is going and how best to get there. The early nineties have not been all plain sailing, though. Cheap coal and gas is plentiful; oil is flowing in abundance; wind's early markets, in California and Denmark, seem to have run out of steam; the first shocks of deregulation have chilled the market in America; energy crops are looming as a competitor (for government subsidies at least); the validity of the global warming doom scenario is being increasingly questioned; and we all seem to be a lot less green than we were a short while ago. Little wonder if it seems that the winds of change have reversed direction.
Fortunately, this is not the case. Wind energy's current uncertainty is entirely founded on a series of temporary reprieves for the power establishment -- and on a market which is volatile only because it is going through fundamental change. The facts remain unchanged. Fossil fuels are finite. Demand for a sustainable energy supply is spiralling as economies grow and grow. Wind will thrive in a free market for power generation, once that market shakes itself loose from decades of vested interests and is adjusted to take the cost of pollution into account. Better information on the greenhouse effect will narrow the margin for error on interpreting trends. And, above all, wind is the only technology which right now can deliver what governments around the world are demanding -- clean power at a reasonable price.
Instead of wandering in uncertainty, what the wind movement needs now is a good dose of self-confidence. Its tendency to be defensive, especially on price and public acceptability, needs stamping out. A confident approach will encourage governments to award our fledgling business all it needs to thrive -- modest, short term support until the day all costs are included in electricity prices; and aid to the developing world to allow it onto the clean power bandwagon. At the same time the industry needs to take a good hard look at what type and size of technology future markets will require. This is the direction wind energy needs to be taking. Roll on the next ten years.