This Economist article discusses the history, technology, and future of wind power. It includes a fair bit of useful information, particularly about integrating wind into the broader energy system:
In addition, the power grid must become more flexible, though some progress has already been made. â€œAlthough wind is variable, it is also very predictable,â€ explains Andrew Garrad, the boss of Garrad Hassan, a consultancy in Bristol, England. Wind availability can now be forecast over a 24-hour period with a reasonable degree of accuracy, making it possible to schedule wind power, much like conventional power sources.
Still, unlike electricity from traditional sources, wind power is not always available on demand. As a result, grid operators must ensure that reserve sources are available in case the wind refuses to blow. But because wind-power generation and electricity demand both vary, the extra power reserves needed for a 20% share of wind are actually fairly smallâ€”and would equal only a few percent of the installed wind capacity, says Edgar DeMeo, co-chair of the 20% wind advisory group for Americaâ€™s Department of Energy. These reserves could come from existing power stations, and perhaps some extra gas-fired plants, which can quickly ramp up or down as needed, he says. A 20% share of wind power is expected to raise costs for Americaâ€™s power industry by 2%, or 50 cents per household per month, from now until 2030.
In 2007, 34% of the new electricity generation capacity that came online in the United States was in the form of wind turbines; China has doubled its capacity every year since 2004. 20% of Danish electricity already comes from wind, along with 10% in Spain and 7% in Germany. Given aggressive construction plans in Asia, North America, and Europe, wind power definitely looks like a technology with a big future.