Global Wind Day: the advantages and opportunities of wind energy
From the sails of boats to windmills, wind has never stopped pushing mankind toward new geographical and technological horizons, furthering the progress of civilization.
The importance of wind has been celebrated since 2007 on June 15, with Global Wind Day. It was started by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), in collaboration with national associations and organizations involved in the production of wind energy, such as the Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento (ANEV – “National Wind Energy Association”), which represents 70 companies that work in the renewable-energy sector and in environmental protection.
Even today, wind energy continues to be a crucial element for the sustainable development of society. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2021 electricity generation from wind power saw a record increase of 273 TWh (+17%), with a 55-percent increase over the previous year, the highest percentage growth out of all other renewable-energy technologies. This success is the result of an unprecedented increase in wind capacity, which already reached 113 GW in 2020, compared to only 59 GW in 2019, proving that the trend is certainly on the rise.
This data shows how wind energy can foster a variety of opportunities for sustainable growth, despite the many challenges that still need to be addressed in order for its full potential to be reached in a systemic way. That is why, today, June 15, we want to celebrate Global Wind Day, highlighting how this renewable source represents a strategic asset of our commitment to energy transition.
From Wind to Electric Energy
Thanks to technological innovation, today, we are able to convert kinetic energy from wind into electrical energy in an ever more efficient way. How?
The power of the wind starts up the rotation of wind turbines, activating a rotor, the heart of the wind turbine positioned inside the so-called nacelle.
In turn, the rotor transforms kinetic energy into mechanical energy. A revolution multiplier transforms the slow rotation of the blades into a faster rotation capable of running the electric generator. The electric generator converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy. A transformer transfers the electrical energy from one circuit to another (the power grid, in this case), changing its characteristics. A delivery station is connected to each system – this is where the wind energy is channeled to be fed into the power grid so that it reaches homes and businesses.
Wind energy: advantages, opportunities, and challenges
By its very nature, wind is a resource that never runs out, is generally found everywhere, and is cost-effective, especially in recent years, with the price of generating MWh on wind farms having come down significantly. What’s more, wind farms occupy a small amount of land, as they are built in an upward fashion, and they require little maintenance and can be integrated into circular economy models.
Actually, the environmental cost of wind farms has been drastically reduced over time: not only is the average lifespan of a solar farm between 20 and 25 years – making this kind of investment a long-term opportunity – but it is now possible to offer a second life to most of the materials used to make them.
These are all things that, in modern times, have led to exponential growth for the entire wind-energy sector. Currently, wind energy employs about 1.2 million people worldwide, with demand for skilled labor continuing to increase, so much so that it is estimated that, by 2030 there will be 18 million jobs generated globally for this specific sector of the green economy
This can also be seen in Italy where wind farms, which are generally concentrated in southern regions, currently generate one-sixth of the total green energy produced here. Every year, wind power produces 20 TWh of energy, and estimates say that we could see installed capacity double by 2030 - progress that would allow wind power to meet 10% of national energy needs.
Wind Energy: the situation in Italy
In Italy, wind energy is much more widespread in the south than in the north, specifically in the regions of Puglia, Sicily, Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, and Sardinia.
Wind energy in Italy will continue to grow. In 2020, there was more than 11 GW of capacity installed, after surpassing the 10 GW milestone in 2018. In that same year, wind farms generated more than 20 TWh of electricity, 15 percent more than in 2019. One record after another, confirming Italy as one of the leading countries in the sector.
This sector in Italy consists of a great many plants, especially small ones. From 2014 to 2019, the number of wind-generation plants tripled, with more than 7,100 units. These are mostly residential installations, harnessing wind power for self-consumption purposes, confirming that wind power represents a renewable source for people and their needs.
Future developments in wind energy in our country will follow several strategic paths. First, wind turbines need to be brought to new areas: many regions are just waiting to welcome solar parks that, in a few years, could provide Italy with an additional 2 GW of power, according to forecasts by ANEV - Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento (National Wind Energy Association). Secondly, there needs to be a focus on technological innovation and the modernization of old wind farms: repowering would allow for increasing national power by 8.5 GW by 2030, according to an ANEV/Studio Elemens study.
In discussing wind power in Italy, we mainly refer to onshore plants. Another alternative is offshore wind farms (floating or in open waters), but this is still a challenge today for historical and natural reasons, bureaucratic obstacles as well as lower yields compared to other regions, such as northern Europe.
Wind energy is poised to become an increasingly fundamental asset in the energy-transition process. Progress in this sector would not only help generate energetic and environmental benefits for the entire Italian system but would also lead to economic opportunities with a variety of green jobs in wind energy – more than 67,000 new jobs by 2030, according to ANEV, with a great social impact in the south, an area that historically has had issues with unemployment.
Our commitment to wind energy
As a Group committed day after day to fostering the energy transition, wind energy represents a key piece of our renewables development strategy, as evidenced by the many wind farms we have inaugurated in Italy and abroad. In launching these, we hope to make an increasingly direct contribution to the expansion and progress of the sector.
One excellent example is the Castelmauro wind farm, which has been operating since October 2022 with seven aero generators (4.2 MW each), and a total capacity of 29.4 MW. Located in the province of Campobasso, the plant guarantees annual production of 70 GWh, avoiding emissions of about 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide and, simultaneously, generating a savings of 15 million cubic meters of gas, which will be completely replaced by clean, locally produced renewable energy.
Another example is the plant in Partanna, Sicily. It has six aero generators (2.4 MW each), with a total capacity of 14.4 MW, meaning the plant is capable of producing about 40 GWh per year from renewable sources, which corresponds to the energy supply for about 10,000 Italian households.
To sum up, wind energy plays an essential role within the renewables framework along the path of sustainable development and energy transition: this is why, on Global Wind Day, as a Group we want to reiterate the need for a broad-based strategy that can foster the expansion of the entire sector and thus contributing to building a society that will enjoy economic benefits, environmental protection, and well-being for all people.