People generally like the idea of wind energy, they just don't want generation facilities anywhere near their homes. Or, in the case of offshore wind power, their yachts.
But remote, cold places may be a better fit and a new forecast says that government mandates and subsidies in the range of approximately EUR 75 billion could lead to between 45 and 50 gigawatts of wind energy in cold climates by 2017.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has conducted what it calls the first-ever study into the feasibility of building wind turbines across the globe in areas where cold climate and icy conditions place special demands on wind turbine technology. In addition to Scandinavia and Canada, these areas also include parts of Central Europe, the United States and China.
Cold climates represent encouraging potential for wind energy companies because of their sparse population and favourable wind conditions. These areas experience higher winds in winter than in summer, and the density of cold air increases production capacity. However, turbine blades are highly susceptible to icing. Although icing causes production losses of 3 per cent per year, losses can be reduced with the help of anti-icing systems.
The global financial crisis has made it more difficult to continue funding all kinds of government energy subsidies, though both electricity producers (getting the money) and consumers (paying the taxes) are still interested in green energy. Wind energy has the added benefit of predictability: it may be more expensive but at least the costs are easier to calculate in the absence of fuel price variations.
"This is a huge opportunity," says Tomas Wallenius. "There has been a lot of talk about the potential of offshore wind power, but the market for cold climate wind energy is more than ten times greater. We already have the tools to harness the potential of cold climate wind energy cost-effectively, while offshore wind energy is still at the research and development stage."