Two kinds of energy sources are available for consumer use, nonrenewable and renewable. Nonrenewable sources of energy come from fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Renewable sources of energy include solar, hydroelectric, wind, wave, biomass, and geothermal. They are considered renewable because they quickly recover from use and can be harnessed repetitively. One of the advantages of using renewable energy sources is that they provide an infinite supply, unlike nonrenewable energy sources which are finite. Its use also benefits the environment by emitting little to no greenhouse gases and helps stabilize utility costs because it is cheaper to produce and relies only on an initial investment rather than fluctuating commodity prices. Wind energy is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, below is a look at some of the top producers in the world.
Wind Energy Leaders
Wind can be harnessed to create energy by using large wind mills. As the wind moves the propellers on the outside of the mill, a shaft inside turns a generator and produces energy. The harder the wind blows, the more power will be produced. Some countries have invested significantly in harvesting wind energy and are now the top producers in the world. These are led by the United States, China, and Spain.
The United States produced 140.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of wind energy in 2012, and that number is growing as the country continues to expand the production of wind power. Investing in this infrastructure has been made possible by the production tax credit which pays a few cents per kilowatt hour of energy produced. In Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas, wind energy accounts for 20% of all the electricity generated. The goal is to reach that percentage across the entire country by 2030.
China is the second top producer of wind generated power in the country and in 2012, produced 100.8 terawatt hours. Similar to the United States, China has continued to invest in wind energy, taking advantage of its huge potential along the long, windy coasts. The government here has a goal to reach 15% wind-power usage nationwide by 2020. Experts believe China has the potential to reach that goal and even surpass US production rates if the country improves its wind farms’ connections to the power grid. Currently, mass amounts of energy are being lost over transmission and distribution.
Number 3 on the list is Spain. This European nation produced 48.5 terawatt hours in 2012. The energy industry here has made extensive advances over the last decade and in 2009, power from wind energy surpassed that produced by coal. Amazingly, and due to lower electricity demands, wind power in Spain represents over 40% of coverage. This far surpasses the US and China. The country has plans to develop offshore wind farms, though that has been met with some opposition.
The Future of Wind Energy
As wind energy has become the fastest growing source of electricity generation in the world, expectations are that that trend will continue. Increasing numbers of countries will turn toward wind as a renewable energy source as it is proven to be cost competitive. Governments are also participating in the movement by developing renewable energy policies that promote development. Nations that have already established successful wind farms will begin to harvest offshore, where winds are stronger and more constant. It is not improbable to think that wind energy could someday soon provide 100% of energy needs.