This article looks into wind turbines as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.
This is a solution that many would have expected to rank well in the Drawdown analysis. But how many would have predicted that onshore wind would have been ranked as the 2nd most effective solution to address climate change? Interestingly offshore wind ranked 22nd on the list of Drawdown solutions.
This is certainly an interesting time for renewable energy. In a recent article in Grist that you can find here, they revealed that in the United States solar and wind power has quintupled in a decade.
In the recently released IEA World Energy Outlook, they revealed that wind energy is set to become the EU’s largest power source in the late 2020s, overtaking coal, nuclear & gas. On a global scale, they are modelling that wind power deployment will continue to grow rapidly, reaching 14% of global capacity by 2040, or around 1 700 GW. There is certainly a lot of momentum behind the renewable energy transition right now.
The authors behind Drawdown open their section with the following powerful statement:
“Wind energy is at the crest of initiatives to address global warming in the coming three decades.”
Let’s look into the numbers that allowed offshore wind to be ranked as the second most effective solution by Project Drawdown. They calculate that an increase in onshore wind from 2.9 percent of world electricity use to 21.6 percent by 2050 could reduce CO2 emissions by 84.9 gigatons. This could be achieved for a net cost of $1.23 Trillion, but produce $7.4 Trillion in net savings. This is certainly a massive solution that could make a real difference to how successful we are at addressing climate change.
Harnessing the wind is anything but new, as the authors make clear:
“Human beings have harnessed the power of wind for millennia, capturing breezes, gusts, and gales to send mariners and their cargo down rivers and across seas or to pump water and grind grain.”
Wind is a technology heavily dependent on geography, but in many places, it is formidable, as the authors make clear:
“In many locales, wind is either competitive with or less expensive than coal-generated electricity.”
Wind farms can also operate alongside other land uses:
“Grazing, farming, recreation, or conservation can happen simultaneously with power generation.”
The scalability of wind technology is also highly impressive:
“It takes one year or less to build a wind farm, quickly producing energy and a return on investment.”
Just like in other examples inside the top 20, perverse subsidies affect the energy sector, as the authors explain:
“Outsize subsidies make fossil fuels look less expensive, obscuring wind power’s cost competitiveness, and they give fossil fuels an incumbent advantage, making investment more attractive.”
The authors close with the following powerful statement:
“For the world, the decision is simple. Invest in the future or in the past.”
What you need to know
This article looked into wind turbines as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.
The article made clear that onshore wind is an extremely powerful solution with the potential to revolutionise the energy sector and prevent massive amounts of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
Its not a new technique, the wind has been harnessed for millennia. New innovations have seen significant quality improvements alongside falling costs for wind turbines.
However perverse subsidies continue to direct capital flows towards fossil fuels. A free market in energy would go a long way to unleashing the potential of wind power. It is already on its way to becoming the quickest to assemble and cheapest form of energy.
Overall, an effective response to climate change requires wind turbines in both their onshore and offshore varieties to play a significant role.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of wind turbines as a climate change solution?