Windy potential in Australia
The key to thinking about the global energy crises and their solutions is to not focus on a single strategy. Energy is not one-size fits all, either in its form or in its generation. If you suggest that solar power will supply our clean energy in the future you’re ignoring areas of the world with poor exposure to sunlight. If you suggest that natural gas is a better alternative to oil-based energy, you ignore the uneven distribution of the resource and the expense of reclaiming it from the world. When contemplating the state of energy in the world today you have to be flexible and reasonable and leverage the traits and advantages of each region.
Power consumption from wind in Australia
Which is why Australia’s failure to truly harness wind power is such a mystery. Australia is ideally suited to take advantage of this natural, clean, and energy efficient way to produce electricity. With wind speeds in excess of 8 meters a second even fifty meters above sea level along the southern coastline, and with most of the southern half of the country exposed to excellent wind resources, one would imagine Australia would be generating a great deal of its electricity using this source. Yet in 2011 wind was only generating 2.4% of Australia’s total electricity demand. While this number is actually quite robust compared to many other developed nations, when compared to the potential wind resources Australia enjoys it is depressingly small.
South Australia leads the way in energy efficient wind power
One way to demonstrate the lost potential is to consider South Australia as if it were a distinct region. In South Australia electricity generated by wind rose from 0% of all power in 2003 to 25% of all power in 2012. This is a truly remarkable, and one can only imagine the impact if the rest of the country had followed suit. It also puts the 2.4% figure into stark relief: If South Australia gets 25% of its power from the wind, how pitiful must the rest of the country’s efforts be if the average is just one tenth of that? When compared to a nation such as Denmark, which now generates 28% of its total electricity from wind, this number becomes even less impressive.
Considerations for wind power
Wind Power has two main disadvantages. On the one hand, almost all of the overall cost of creating a Wind Farm is up-front investment costs – the design and construction of the farm itself. Once in operation, Wind Farms require very little maintenance and run very efficiently. On the other hand, Wind Farms require a large amount of flat, open space, and the turbines are often considered unattractive and are therefore not desired in local communities.
Australia is, of course, perfectly suited to compensate for the second problem, being blessed with large areas of unsettled land where Wind Farms can exist far away from offended sensibilities. The environmental impact on the local bio-systems is very light, and Wind Farms generate the energy used in their construction within 3 months of going operational, putting them in the black environmentally almost immediately. Wind power does not create pollution, and studies have shown that there is almost no negative impact on local bird and wildlife populations.
Wind Power could therefore slash the economic and environmental costs of continued energy production. Australians have proved themselves more than willing to do their part; they have embraced energy saving products like the EcoSwitch, employed strategies to reduce electricity in their homes, and supported many other energy and environmental initiatives. Many have even set up personal wind turbines that generate kilowatts of power for their own use. If a serious conversation were begun on the subject of increasing Australia’s Wind Energy projects and investment, no doubt the Australian population would do us proud with a full-throated approval. While the funds required to invest initially can be substantial, the fact that these installations will pay for themselves almost immediately is a key factor to raise when dealing with the budget-minded.
Overall, Australia is one of the worldwide leaders in alternative energy and energy conservation. Embracing wind energy would remind the world that Australians are one of the most progressive and globally-conscious populations in the world.