Technologies

Wind energy

Wind energy, currently the cheapest renewable energy source, involves the generation of electricity from the naturally occurring power of the wind.
 
Wind turbines capture wind energy within the area swept by their blades, proportional to the wind speed cubed, up to the designed maximum blade speed. The blades in turn drive an electrical generator to produce power for export to the grid.
 
Sites where there is strong, consistent wind, such as Southern Australia, are the most appropriate locations for wind farms. An excellent wind site is generally considered to provide average wind speeds greater than 8 metres per second at ground level.
 

Greenhouse gas savings

In 2012 estimated wind energy generation saved Australia 7,386,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is equivalent to the removal of 1,641,000 cars from our roads. As an additional environmental benefit, no water is needed for wind farm operation.

In Australia

Australia has some of the world’s best wind resources. The total operating wind capacity in April 2012 was 2480 megawatts. The amount of installed capacity of wind power has increased by an average of 25 per cent a year over the past decade. Wind energy supplies over 6,800 gigawatt hours of electricity annually - around 2.4 per cent of Australia's overall electricity needs.

Currently there are 59 operating wind farms in Australia, with a total of 1345 operating turbines. South Australia has the largest installed capacity with around 49 per cent of the nation’s total wind capacity.

Potential

There are currently over 14,000 megawatts (MW) of large-scale wind farm energy projects proposed around the country, many of them having already received planning permission.

Global view

The use of wind power continues to grow around the world. Global installed capacity at the end of 2011 was almost 238 gigawatts - a 22 percent increase on 2009.

In 2011, around 40.5 gigawatts of new wind capacity was installed around the world with a value of around $US68 billion. 

The top four wind energy nations are:

  • China - 62,364 MW
  • United States - 46,919 MW
  • Germany - 29,060 MW
  • Spain - 21,674 MW

In 2007 the government committed to ensuring that 20 per cent of Australia's electricity supply would come from renewable energy sources by 2020 by establishing the expanded national Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. The enhanced RET scheme commenced on 1 January 2010 and is projected to deliver more than 45,000 gigawatt hours of electricity in 2020. It is expected to unlock more than $20 billion in investment over the next decade.

Are wind farms noisy?

An expert talks about potential noise or health effects of wind farms

Musselroe Wind Farm Project Update June 2012