From 2000 to 2012, installed wind power capacity increased by a yearly 11.6 per cent and accounted for 39 per cent of total newly-installed electricity generation capacity. In 2011, wind power produced 6.3 per cent of the EU's total electricity generation. In the last 15 years, wind power has moved from a technology that attracted only a few investors to one that attracts broad-based investments throughout the EU.
Germany and Spain the largest wind power countries in Europe
Germany and Spain are Europe's largest wind power countries in terms of installed capacity, comprising one third and one fourth of Europe's wind power, respectively. The global leader is China, with over 26 per cent of the world's wind power capacity.
In terms of wind power's share of total electricity generation, Denmark is one of the world's leading wind power countries. In 2012, 27 per cent of Denmark's electricity generation came from wind power.
As of January 2014 the UK is the clear world leader with some 3.6GW of installed operating capacity, and a further 1.4GW under construction. Over one thousand offshore wind turbines have already been installed in UK waters.
Wind power in Europe - installed capacity over time
Wind needs balancing power
Wind turbines can only produce electricity when the wind speed is right. On occasions when the wind is not strong enough, other types of energy are used as balancing power.
To plan, obtain permissions for, and build a wind farm is a long process in most European countries. A project may take anywhere from two to 15 years from initial planning to construction start, depending mainly on planning permissions.
In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between three key dimensions: competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment and climate. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions. This energy triangle illustrates the pros and cons of wind power.
Climate and environment: Wind power is a renewable energy source that emits essentially no CO2 across its life cycle. Wind turbines do have an impact on the landscape, and also emit noise, which some people find disturbing.
Security of supply: Wind resources are renewable. But wind power is dependent on available wind, and excessively high wind speeds require temporary stops in electricity generation. New wind power developments therefore focus on areas with reliable and predictable winds.
Competitiveness: Wind power has no fuel costs, though total cost per produced kilowatt hour is high due to significant investment costs and the need for network capacity investments for new wind farms. Today, wind power is therefore largely dependent on support systems. Investments for offshore wind farms are three times higher than for land-based ones. Technological development and an increasing price of CO2 emissions will make wind power more cost-competitive.