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Elisa González Verdejo

Prices for wind turbines production hit a low record: and they're still one of the cleanest source of energy

Last June was welcomed by the UK's interest in leading the run towards the Net-Zero emissions target by 2050, becoming the first country in the European Union to sign an amendment to their country’s Climate Change Act, in order to reach the ambitious target. As this commitment sets in, the world's largest marine wind turbine has been put to test in Blyth, a port in the northernmost part of England. According to the official website of GE Renewable Energy -the manufacturer-, the turbine epically called Haliade-X will be capable of generating enough clean power for up to 16 000 European households! If everything goes as expected, the Haliade-X 12 MW would become the first biggest offshore wind turbine in the world, generating approximately 67 GWh annually, with a size of seven American football fields. In a wind farm configuration, this type of wind turbines would allow to cover up to 1 million European households.



UK’s initiative comes after the prospect for a decade of unprecedented growth in eolic energy, according to the Wind Energy Technologies Office of the United States. The top trends in offshore wind energy technologies show a reduction in their auction prices, not only in the USA but also on Denmark and the UK, closely followed by Germany and the Netherlands. Whilst more countries are being added to the prospect, wind blades have also been manufactured in much bigger sizes, allowing one turbine to capture an average 5.5 MW in 2017, according to the 2018 annual report from the aforementioned US Office. As the customized floating structures for the turbines have become better developed, and the distance from the shore also met room to an increase, the technology needed for the installation offshore has reached deeper ocean levels, with floating structures added to the new designs, and from this year on, much powerful turbines of 12 MW are just starting their way to be tested.



A note from the Berkely Lab also pointed at the lower cost of electricity coming from the wind: this kind of energy just hit a record low on 2019 with a tendency below solar energy. Its prices went from 7 cents per kWh in 2009, to almost 2 cents this year. The levelized price -that is a metric that allows different technologies to be compared- put wind energy not only below solar energies, but below *gas fuel*.



As wind energy has become an important solution to the generation of renewable energy, Scandinavia also took a leap with the largest offshore wind farm of their region officially opened a few days ago, on August, 23th. The farm consists of 49 turbines, standing 187 meters tall: that's about twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, or the Big Ben! The farm also will be capable of generating 407 megawatts (MW), allowing it to cover the electricity consumption of approximately 425,000 Danish homes.



The case for Latin America is irregular though: whilst Chile, Brazil and Argentina recently showed plans to invest in eolic farms, the eolic future in Mexico is not yet very clear, and conflicting in some reports which show that while there is interest to keep the growing rate of the established sector, there has also been an awaiting period from the goverment to continue the auctions for private investment. At present, the expectation is to grow from 800 to 1200 MW by the end of 2019, and on the bright news an eolic farm was just opened last June, aiming to provide electricity for up to 120,000 households. Meanwhile the country has opted for a cogenerating model, including natural gas plus a not yet very well defined plan to develop eolic parks in alliance with Iberdrola the spanish firm. Brazil on the other hand, has also shown interest from investors such as Iberdrola as well as Siemens Gamesa and Voltalia, the last one with a focus on solar panels. In the case of Chile, the local authority of Bío Bío, showed a clear aim in turning the region as the leader of the country by increasing their generating capacity up to 500 MW from this date to 2021.



While the above might represent an occidental background, let us turn the observatory towards Asia: China, on the other hand, revealed plans to meet up to 50% of their energy requirements via renewable energies in their 13th Energy Technology Innovation Five-Year Plan, by 2030. The country is also leading the world in wind energy, showing 197 GW of total facilities installed along the country, compared to the US, with around 89 GW, according to the World Wide Wind Energy Association. Regarding their energetic potential as a country, using this type of technology, it's been said that either their land and ocean are very well suited for wind generators: estimations point that about 2 380 GW could be harvested by 2050. Overall this could show that China is now a leading world example for other nations seeking to develop their energetic industry.



Meanwhile India, a country known for its refusal to change completely towards renewable energies, and which favours coal fueled electricity, has seen a small interest in wind energy. The country has actually shown to be capable of reaching 4th place in the World Wind Association report for 2018, on Overall Wind Capacity installed but it seems to be facing financial difficulties supporting projects, as recent auctions met only 2 bids in auctions. Despite expectations, pollution on the major Indian cities continue, and by the time this post was written, it seems improbable that India will set a wind based energetic strategy without challenge, favouring instead coal, as well as solar panel installations.



Overall, a bright panorama for the more industrialized countries is settled: levelized prices for wind turbines have been lowered during the last few years, yet it still seems difficult to replicate in less advantaged countries, such as those criticized sometimes for letting their development be based on fossil fuels, despite some of their efforts. Nevertheless, China, has risen as the leader in renewable wind energy worldwide, even when its industry shows technical differences compared to, for example, that of the US. While this is a better prospect than ten years ago, countries will need to accelerate the pace to mitigate climate crisis, but the fact is that an oriented business vision prevails. As youth, we face apparent challenges, would it be possible to find multilateral supportive and fair dynamics between 'techno-privileged' and less technologically advantaged countries?

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