Why Is Wind The Fastest Growing Renewable?

Why Wind Power is Experiencing Rapid Growth and Expansion

Over the past decade, wind energy has emerged as one of the fastest growing and most promising renewable energy sources worldwide. Installed capacity for wind power has increased more rapidly compared to other renewables like solar, geothermal and bioenergy.

There are several key factors driving the surging adoption of wind power globally. This article will explore the declining costs, supportive government policies, technological improvements, expanding transmission infrastructure, abundant land resources, rising investments, public approval and energy security benefits that are fueling the growth of wind energy.

Cost Declines

Cost of wind power has dropped dramatically in recent decades, making it competitive with traditional fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. According to the Department of Energy, the average cost to install a new wind turbine declined by 69% between 2009 and 2020. The dramatic drop is attributed to improvements in turbine technology, materials, project management, and other efficiencies that have made producing wind energy more cost effective than ever.

This cost decline means wind can compete directly against fossil fuels on price in many markets. In recent years, wind power purchase agreements have been signed for under 2 cents per kWh, competitive with the operating cost of just the fuel for many natural gas and coal plants. With wind having no fuel costs, this positions it at the low end of levelized costs for electricity generation sources. As wind and solar gain more market share, their cost declines put continued pressure on fossil fuel plants to reduce prices or retire.

Supportive Policies

Governments around the world have enacted various policies to encourage the growth of renewable energy, including wind power. Key policies that have boosted wind power expansion include:

Government subsidies and tax incentives – Many governments provide financial incentives like tax credits, grants, and feed-in tariffs to make wind power more affordable and attractive to investors. The production tax credit in the U.S. has been vital for wind growth.

Renewable energy mandates – Renewable portfolio standards require utilities to source a minimum portion of their electricity from renewables like wind. 30 states in the U.S. now have renewable portfolio standards.

Carbon pricing – Policies that put a price on carbon emissions through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes improve the cost competitiveness of zero-emission sources like wind. Countries with carbon pricing continue to see growth in wind adoption.

Technological Improvements

Advances in wind turbine technology have allowed wind power to become more cost effective and efficient. Modern wind turbines are much larger than early models, with blades spanning over 100 meters in length. The larger surface area of these massive turbines means they can capture more wind and generate more electricity. Engineers have also made improvements to blade aerodynamics and materials. The curved blade shapes are designed to extract the maximum energy from the wind. And blades made from lightweight composites like carbon fiber are more durable and efficient.

These technology enhancements have led to higher capacity factors for wind turbines. Capacity factor refers to the actual output over time as a percentage of the maximum possible output. The average capacity factor for wind turbines worldwide has increased from around 20-25% in the 1990s to roughly 35% today. That’s a major jump in performance. As technology continues to advance, wind turbines are likely to become even more productive and cost effective.

Expanding Grid Access

The growth of transmission infrastructure has enabled wind power to be brought to more areas across the country. Major investments have been made in new transmission lines and interconnections that allow wind-generated electricity to flow to and from more parts of the grid. This expanded infrastructure provides access for more wind projects and allows wind energy to be delivered to a larger number of electricity customers.

Upgrades to the grid have opened up new regions with prime wind resources. Areas like the Midwest and parts of Texas that were previously isolated now have transmission capacity to bring abundant wind power to major load centers. The ability to move large amounts of wind-generated electricity over longer distances has been key for the growth of wind energy. It has allowed wind farms to be built in the windiest locations, rather than be constrained by proximity to electricity demand.

Land Use Benefits

One of the major benefits of wind power is its relatively small land footprint compared to other renewable energy sources. Wind turbines occupy less physical space per megawatt generated than solar farms or biomass plantations. This allows more of the surrounding area to continue being used for farming, ranching, or other purposes. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind farms require around 60 acres per megawatt of installed capacity. In contrast, solar photovoltaic farms need about 7 acres per megawatt, while biomass energy needs around 100-200 acres per megawatt. This makes wind power one of the most land-efficient renewable technologies available.

In addition, wind farms allow for dual-use of land. Farmers and ranchers can continue raising crops or livestock around the turbines. The wind company receives income from the land through turbine leasing agreements, while the farmer or rancher generates income from agricultural activities. This opens up new revenue streams for rural landowners while keeping land in productive use for food, grazing, or habitat. With careful siting and community engagement, wind projects can be compatible with many existing land uses. The small footprint and dual-use potential give wind power significant advantages over other renewables in terms of lower overall land impacts.

Investor Interest

Wind energy is drawing major new investments from energy companies and investors. With wind nowcompetitive with fossil fuels, energy firms are ramping up capital spending on wind projects.

major corporations and financial institutions are making large investments into wind energy as costs decline.

For example, BP, Chevron and Shell have all made multi-billion dollar investments in wind farms over the past few years. Wind is increasingly attractive for these large corporations looking to expand renewable generation.

At the same time, financial institutions are offering more innovative financing options for wind power. Big banks are providing large credit facilities and making equity investments in wind projects. Institutional investors like pension funds are also allocating more capital, lured by wind’s stable, long-term returns.

The influx of new capital from major corporations and institutional investors has enabled the rapid scaling up of wind capacity. Their growing interest shows that wind is now a mainstream, mature technology with major potential to keep expanding.

Public Support

Wind energy enjoys strong public support, especially from environmental groups who see it as a clean and renewable source of electricity. Surveys consistently show that a large majority of Americans favor expanding wind power capacity. For example, a Pew Research Center poll in 2019 found that 77% of U.S. adults supported more wind farm development. This support stems from wind energy’s lack of air and water pollution, minimal landscape disruption, and ability to generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Major environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists have lobbied governments to enact policies promoting wind power and remove barriers to its growth.

Wind energy is also popular because the costs have fallen dramatically in recent years, making it economically competitive with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. The public sees wind as a reliable long-term solution, not just a passing fad. With global climate action growing increasingly urgent, wind energy’s clean credentials make it an attractive choice for concerned citizens and policymakers focused on reducing carbon emissions and building a low-carbon future.

Energy Security

Wind power enhances energy security by using a free, domestic resource – the wind. Unlike fossil fuels, the wind is not subject to geopolitical tensions or embargoes. By generating electricity from wind, countries can reduce their dependence on imported coal, natural gas, and petroleum. This improves the trade balance and reduces vulnerability to price shocks or supply disruptions.

Diversifying the electric grid with increased wind generation makes the system more resilient. If one fuel source becomes temporarily unavailable, electricity from wind turbines can help fill the gap. Wind hedges against volatility in fossil fuel markets and provides a reliable, indigenous power source. This gives countries greater control over their energy future.


In summary, wind power has emerged as one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources for several key reasons. First, the cost of wind power has declined dramatically in recent decades thanks to economies of scale, technological improvements, and competitive bidding. Second, supportive government policies like production tax credits, renewable portfolio standards, and feed-in tariffs have accelerated wind farm construction. Third, innovations in turbine design, materials, and wind forecasting have boosted capacity factors and efficiency. Fourth, grid operators have expanded transmission infrastructure to unlock wind-rich areas. Fifth, wind energy enables productive use of rural lands with minimal environmental impacts. Sixth, wind power has attracted robust financing from institutional investors looking for stable returns. Seventh, public opinion surveys show strong support for expanding wind generation. Finally, wind provides energy security by relying on a free domestic fuel source immune from price shocks. With many growth drivers still in place, wind energy is poised for continued expansion as a sustainable renewable solution.

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