Wind Energy


A ‘wind farm’ or ‘wind park’ is a group of three or more wind turbines built either at sea (‘offshore’), inland (‘onshore’) or on the coast (‘nearshore’). Due to the variable nature of the wind, it has been argued that we cannot rely on wind power on a large scale. A joint Friends of the Earth/Greenpeace report in 2009 concluded these claims had been exaggerated, and that we should be developing both onshore and offshore wind energy resources to reduce carbon emissions and protect against fossil fuel price rises. The wind turbine industry, it is argued, has another benefit in that it creates skilled jobs.

While wind farms supply “green” energy, they are not without an effect on the environment. Collisions with birds and bats are common and in a study in northern Spain, 732 were found to have been killed across 140 wind farms. No negative effects on marine mammals, fish or sea birds have been observed at offshore wind farms.

The largest wind farm in the world in 2013 was the Roscoe Wind Farm, Texas, USA, with 627 turbines. The largest and most powerful UK offshore farm at the moment is the London Array in the North Sea just off the River Thames estuary. With its 175 turbines producing a nominal 630 MW, this 100sq km farm produces enough power to supply nearly half a million homes a year. However it will itself be dwarfed by the planned Dogger Bank wind farm, with its 1,500 turbines producing a nominal 9,000 MW, equivalent to 7 nuclear power stations.

Guetsch Wind Park, Switzerland.
Switzerland has 8 wind farms and a total of 28 high performance wind turbines.
Guetsch wind park in the Alps near Andermatt is the highest in Europe at 2332 metres above sea level. There has been one 600kW turbine there since 2004, and two more 900kW machines were installed in October 2010, with another being added in 2012. This wind farm’s 4 turbines produce an estimated annual total of 4.5 million kW hours electricity a year. The biggest customer for this power is the St Gothard Tunnel, which consumes 3 million kW hours a year. The turbines have to operate in harsh conditions with wind speeds up to 50 m/s and considerable turbulence – something they can only do because they are gearless and have storm control. The rotor blades are fitted with a de-icing system that shuts the turbines down for a short time when it becomes necessary to clear them of ice.

Gran Canaria wind farms
Spain, 4th in the world for its capacity to harness wind power, is able to generate more than half its energy from renewable sources. However mainland Spain’s 5,000 miles of coastline is not suitable for off-shore turbines, as the seas are too deep.

Gran Canaria is small and remote Spanish island, which has over 2 million visitors a year boosting the demand for power from its 800,000 inhabitants. The island already uses its abundant solar energy and is developing geothermal sources. In addition it claims to have the largest wind farm in Spain at Arinaga on its south eastern coast. This onshore facility produces a total nominal power of 6270 kW from 11 wind turbines. Now plans are underway to build a new large-scale wind farm offshore, and in October 2013 the first offshore turbine in Spain, and the largest wind turbine anywhere in the country at 154 metres (505 feet) tall, with 62.5 metre (205 feet) long blades, went into service on the end of a dike at Arinaga Quay. This turbine alone will generate enough energy to power 7,500 households. It is a prototype for many more offshore turbines to come.

Wind Park Guetsch, Switzerland
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Wind turbines, Gran Canaria, Spain
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