15 July 2008
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. At the end of 2007, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 94.1 gigawatts. Although wind currently produces about 1% of world-wide electricity use, it accounts for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 9% in Spain and Portugal, and 6% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland (2007 data). Globally, wind power generation increased more than fivefold between 2000 and 2007.
Most wind power is generated in the form of electricity. Large scale wind farms are connected to electrical grids. Individual turbines can provide electricity to isolated locations. In windmills, wind energy is used directly as mechanical energy for pumping water or grinding grain.
Wind energy is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions when it displaces fossil-fuel-derived electricity. The intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when using wind power to supply a low proportion of total demand, but it presents extra costs when wind is to be used for a large fraction of demand. However these costs even for quite large percentage penetrations are considered to be modest.
The siting of turbines has become a controversial issue amongst those concerned about the value of natural landscapes, particularly since the best sites for wind generation tend to be in scenic mountain and oceanside areas.