Green Energy:  World's Largest Wind Farm Goes Online

Dong Energy wind turbine
Source: Dong Energy
Dong Energy wind turbine

The world’s largest offshore wind farm was launched into full motion today in Denmark as green energy initiatives continue to gain momentum around the globe.

Dong Energy, an energy company in Northern Europe, undertook the project 18-months ago, installing 91 wind turbines and 1 transformer platform 30 kilometers off the west coast of Jutland, Denmark on the North Sea. The wind farm, called Horns Rev 2, has a price tag of about $1 billion, and its capacity stands at 209 megawatts. The electricity produced by the 35 kilometer area project could provide enough electricity to service 200,000 Danish households.

In addition to today's development, five new wind farms will be put into operation, and more projects are in the pipeline, according Anderson Eldrup, CEO of Dong Energy. Mr. Eldrup estimates that in the course of the next three years, the company's offshore capacity will be expanded by 1,063 megawatts, and by 2020 the company will have reduced its CO2 intensity by 50 percent.

Could utility companies in the United States follow suit?

As the United States aims to reduce its carbon footprint, a recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and other energy entities, estimates that a goal of 20 percent wind-energy generation in America by the year 2030, could reduce CO2 emissions from the nation's electric sector by 25 percent, or about 825 million metric tons.

And while the costs of a major wind project in the U.S. would exceed about 2 percent of a no-wind-scenario, or an increase of about $43 billion, an estimated $155 billion reduction in fuel expenditures for the nation could offset a large portion of the initial investments. Based on a 20% wind energy scenario by 2030, the report finds a decade later, U.S. Wind energy could potentially support more than 800,000 jobs in areas related to wind energy.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, a record 8,500 megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity were added in the United States in 2008, increasing the nation's total wind power capacity by 50 percent to about 25,300 MW, or enough electricity power to serve nearly 6 million homes.

The improvement in capacity represented an investment of about $17 billion last year.

The AWEA estimates that approximately 85,000 people were employed by the wind energy industry in 2008, amounting to an increase of 143 percent from 2007 levels.

Despite a significant improvement in energy capacity last year, wind-derived electricity in the U.S. accounts for less than 1 percent of total energy production.

Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab, estimates that North Dakota alone is capable—with enough transmission capacity (a huge investment requirement in its own right)—to provide about 4% of the country's electricity demand.

Currently, the top five states with wind energy capacity installed include: Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington.

The following table provides a look at the top twenty states that could benefit from an increase in wind energy supply, as measured by the Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory.

If wind energy takes center stage among some of the green initiatives debated in Congress and around the world, some of the companies that could benefit include:

  • General Electric - manufactures wind turbines (also parent of CNBC)
  • Siemens -manufactures wind turbines and supplier to DONG Energy's wind project
  • Ameron International - manufactures industrial products including fabricated steel wind towers
  • FPL Group Capital - largest owner and operator of wind generating facilities in North America
  • American Superconductor - provider of electric power infrastructure including wind turbines
  • Kaydon - manufacturer of large bearings used in wind turbine

Two ETFS to consider:

  • First Trust Global Wind Energy
  • PowerShares Global Wind Energy

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