WASHINGTON -- Wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source, rising at an annual rate of 20 percent since 1990, the Worldwatch Institute reports.
Christopher Flavin, vice president for research at the non-profit environmental research group, said rapid growth in the use of wind power, coupled flat growth in nuclear energy and coal combustion since 1990, suggests it could become an important energy source in many countries within the next decade.
Wind power now accounts for less than 1 percent of the world's electricity needs.
Flavin, author of Windpower: Small, But Growing Fast, an article to be published in the September/October 1996 issue of World Watch magazine, said uncertainty about the future structure of the electric industry has stalled wind power development in the U.S.
"Wind power has a sort of Don Quixote image about it, that it cannot be relied on," said Flavin. "However, some countries, such as the U.S., Canada, Chile, Russia, and the U.K., have demonstrated they could make a significant percentage of their energy from it."
Wind power is an attractive alternative to many forms of energy because it adds no air pollution, acid rain or carbon dioxide to the environment.
A commitment to more wind-generated energy would not only spur American manufacturing for the turbines used to harness the wind's power, but also benefit farmers, who could add $10,000 to $25,000 in additional income from a wind turbine placed on a wheat field that would otherwise earn only $400 a year, Flavin said.
Allan Hoffman, acting deputy assistant secretary of utility technology for the Department of Energy, said the government has planned no special subsidies to encourage the development of wind power, but agreed with Flavin's assertion that wind turbines on 1 percent of American land, capable of producing 20 percent of U.S.power needs, will eventually be a reality.
"Fossil fuels are a blip on the time-line of history. We estimate they will be peaked out by the year 2030, causing prices to rise and paving the way for renewable energy sources like wind power to become the economical choice," said Hoffman. …