Wind Power In 100 Countries (Thanks, Iceland!)

It was Iceland, which pretty much runs on hydro and geothermal power, that brought wind power to an impressive new level of global deployment in 2012.

The installation of two 900-kilowatt turbines in the Burfell area of south Iceland last December brought the number of countries with large-scale wind power to an even 100, according to the World Wind Energy Association.

image via Landsvirkjun

image via Landsvirkjun

That information is contained in the group’s new World Wind Energy Report 2012 [PDF], which appears to largely mirror what the Global Wind Energy Council said about the state of wind power a few months ago, with both organizations counting total installed capacity around 282 gigawatts at the end of 2012, during which north of 44 GW were added.

But the Iceland tidbit does raise the question: In a country that has enough hydro and geothermal  to meet all of its electrical needs, why wind? Well, first, understand that it’s an R&D project, designed to get a better sense of how wind might add to Iceland’s all-green energy portfolio. Here’s more from the WWEA:

Due to its abundant natural hydro- and geothermal resources, Iceland generates already today 100% of its electricity using renewable resources, with about 70% coming from hydropower and 30% from geothermal power. Most of the plants are operated by the company Landsvirkjun which is owned by the Icelandic state and is the main supplier of electricity in Iceland.

Iceland enjoys a unique position with about 85% of total primary energy consumption coming from renewable energy sources generated domestically. In 2011, geothermal energy provided about 66 % of primary energy (mainly for heating), the share of hydropower was 19% and fossil fuels (mainly oil) 15% for the transport sector and the fishing fleet. End of 2012, the country installed its first wind turbines with a capacity of 1,8 MW.

Hörður Arnarson, CEO of the Icelandic utility Landsvirkjun: “It is entirely possible that wind energy could become the third pillar in Landsvirkjun’s operations in the future, adding to the list of renewable sources already utilised by Landsvirkjun, such as geothermal and hydroelectric power. It will be interesting to see how wind power in Iceland can be utilised in conjunction with hydropower as the flexibility of hydroelectric power could in fact increase the value of wind power.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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