Wind Energy Facts

Global wind energy potential is huge. It can be harvested nearly everywhere – in valleys, on mountains, at sea.

Windmill powering a waterpump. Monte Leon, Patagonia, Argentina.
© James Frankham / WWF

Worldwide wind power

In 2008, more wind power capacity was installed in the EU and the US than any other electricity-generated technology.
In China, total capacity doubled for the 4th year in a row. By 2010, China plans to install some 18 GW of additional wind capacity – about the equivalent of erecting 1 wind turbine per hour with a capacity of 1 MW from now till then.

Over 80 countries around the world now have commercial wind power installations, including Mongolia and Pakistan. More projects are under development in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Gathering strength

The size of commercial wind turbines can vary between 250 kw and 6 MW.

A 5 MW turbine can produce more than 15 million kWh in a year. This is enough to power 1,500 to 15,000 households, depending on their average electricity consumption.

Offshore wind turbines can produce more electricity due to better wind conditions.

Wind energy has become very efficient and, in many cases, onshore wind is competitive with or even cheaper than nuclear or fossil fuels. Offshore wind is still relatively expensive and needs support to grow and achieve economies of scale.
	© istockphoto  / David Joyner
Wind turbine turning on a stormy day.
© istockphoto / David Joyner

Did you know?

The first windmills were probably invented in eastern Persia in the 9th century. After the 12th century, windmills were commonly used in many parts of the world to grind cereals and to pump water. Today, modern wind turbines are used to produce electricity.

Wind power and nature conservation

	© WWF / Adam Oswell
The power of wind.
© WWF / Adam Oswell
The construction and operation of wind turbines can have an impact on the natural environment – from their strikingly large visual appearance on the landscape to birds flying into turning rotors.
WWF believes that the benefits of wind energy far outweigh the damage caused by the use of more conventional energy sources. Precautionary measures should help mitigating potential negative impacts.

A single 1.5 MW wind turbine over its lifetime can save about 80,000 tonnes of brown coal.

The future of wind energy lies in large-scale, onshore and offshore wind parks that connect to regional super grids to provide clean and efficient electricity.

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