While climate talk has by no means been centre stage in this year’s presidential election, it’s quite a different story across the pond. In recent years, the comparatively progressive European Union member states have been turning up the dial on climate concern, and it’s not all hot air. They’ve undertaken a number of initiatives recently, particularly on the wind front, and the numbers are in…and they’re impressive, to say the least.
Though wind power is rarely taken seriously in North America, it’s practically a religion across many parts of Europe. That could be fueled in part by a 2009 European Environment Agency report that confirmed that the continent’s onshore and offshore wind energy potential, harnessed, could meet the EU’s overall energy needs many times over.
A significant milestone was announced last week when the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) reported that more than 100 GW of wind power have been installed across the EU. That’s a mind-blowing number, and to put it in perspective, here’s some other things that could produce 100 GW of power:
- Just over 60 coal-fired power plants.
- More than 50 gas power plants.
- Almost 40 nuclear power plants.
That’s right, by investing so significantly in wind power, EU countries have mitigated their dependence on fossil fuels and installed enough wind energy to power just under 60 million homes.
A key takeaway from Europe’s success with wind power in my view is not so much the considerable volume of power they’re currently generating and are expected to generate in coming years, and more how they got here. Reiterating the short-term-pain-for-long-term-gain argument so often associated with investments in renewables, Europe’s successes were not realized over night. It took about 20 years to generate the first 10 GW, but the following 90 GW took just over half that time, 13 years. So, judging by Europe’s example, getting a payoff from wind energy is all about momentum, a lesson the U.S. ought to heed just as it begins to take offshore wind a little bit more seriously.