Wind doesn't get as much attention in Silicon Valley as solar, but wind does have this going for it: It's much bigger.
New renewables (biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, nonexistent wave) accounted for 3.6 percent of U.S. power in August, according to the Department of Energy in November. Still, wind accounted for 43.9 megawatt hours of the 89.7 megawatt hours produced by new renewables through August. Solar came to only 590 megawatt hours. In Europe, wind is tough to miss. Copenhagen's harbor is lined with turbines.
The Department of Energy estimated last year that wind could account for 20 percent of U.S. power by 2030.
To this end, the countries that border the North Sea have announced an initiative to examine the possibility of building a supergrid that will connect offshore wind farms to the Continent. In particular, the wind farms off the coast of Scotland and Ireland would feed power to areas with larger coast populations.
"A new multi-billion Euro European industry is emerging, one that will create thousands of jobs, provide affordable electricity, boost Europe's energy security and help fight climate change," said Justin Wilkes the policy director of the European Wind Energy Association in a prepared statement.
Scotland, which may propose a vote for independence in the coming year that's partly tied to the growth of its energy industry, could be one of the main beneficiaries. A number of offshore wind companies have formed in and around Aberdeen, the center of the Scottish oil industry, in recent years that hope to exploit the region's know-how in building massive oil platforms in wind.
One of the more interesting companies is SeaEnergy Renewables, which has an offshore wind turbine that is half oil platform/half turbine. These platforms weigh less than 1,000 tons while conventional ones weigh over 1,000 tons: less steel and construction time mean lower costs and cheaper power. The company will participate in building two of the ten offshore wind projects with a cumulative power capacity of 6 gigawatts announced in the U.K. earlier this year.
Burntisland Fabrications, which works with SeaEnergy, expects to deliver 200 of the $2 million platforms for these types of turbines in the coming years, Ian Scrimger, business development manager at Burntisland told us earlier this year.
"Eighty percent of the business will be renewables. Now, it is about 10 percent," he said. "We see it quickly turning."
Ireland has enough on-shore wind resources to power the whole country in theory, Graham Brennan, program manager for renewable-energy research and development at Sustainable Energy Ireland, told me last year.
But it can be harmful to wildlife. Federal District Judge Roger Titus has ordered a halt to new turbines at a West Virginia wind facililty and ordered that the existing turbines can't operate between April 1 and November 15 until an additional permit is obtained to help preserve the endangered Indiana bat. This is the first time a court has found a wind project violates federal environmental law.
"The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors," the court ruled.
Meanwhile, Siemens says it wants to be one of the top three wind suppliers by 2012, joining the Vestas and General Electric club atop the wind heap.
"The global wind power market will grow from about 30 billion euros ($44.43 billion) annually today to more than 200 billion euros by 2030. We anticipate especially robust growth in the Asia-Pacific region," Siemens Wind Power CEO Andreas Nauen told reporters Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Earlier this year, Siemens acquired Solel, the solar thermal granddaddy, for $418 million and bought a 60 percent stake in smart grid expert Energy4U. We expect Siemens to be one of the top acquirers in the feeding frenzy in greentech that is expected to occur.