Winds of Change: The Environmental Movement and the Global Development of the Wind Energy Industry

By Ion Bogdan Vasi | Go to book overview

1
The Big Picture:
The Environmental Movement’s Impact on the Global
Development of the Wind Energy Industry

Where there is wind, there is turbulence, friction, and ultimately, conflicts.
On the physical plane, winds are all about chaos and particles of matter so
minute they escape detection, yet they possess incredible amounts of energy.
Chaos also dominates humanity’s efforts to harvest the power of wind.
—Peter Asmus, Reaping the Wind: How Mechanical Wizards, Visionaries,
and Profiteers Helped Shape Our Energy Future (Washington, D.C.: Island
Press, 2001)


A Framework for Analyzing the Global Development
of the Wind Energy Industry

In 1996 wind power became the world’s fastest-growing energy source, reaching an annual growth rate of 32 percent. An article published at that time by the environmental think tank Worldwatch Institute noted that wind power had had an annual growth of 20 percent since 1990, while nuclear power and coal combustion had grown at a rate of less than 1 percent per year.1 Comparing the renewable energy industries and the high-tech industries, the article argued that “the computer industry has shown the powerful effect of double digit growth rates. The fact that personal computers provided less than 1 percent of world computing power in 1980 did not prevent them from dominating the industry a decade later. Already, wind power went from providing less than 1 percent of the electricity in the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein in 1990 to 8 percent in 1995.”2 The article emphasized that wind power had the potential to exceed 20 percent of world electricity in the near future, and it concluded that, in the long term, “wind power could … eventually replace coal and nuclear power and allow a sharp reduction in world carbon emissions.”

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