Wind energy has a long and rich history. Used for thousands of years, it has been used from everything as the means by which the first boats set sail across the seas to pumping water and milling grain. As technology advanced, the first windmill ever to produce electricity was built by Professor James Blyth in 1887 and was quickly followed up by Charles F. Brush’s wind turbine, which produced 12KW electricity and powered his batteries for him.
Since then, wind power has gone onto to conquer the world of renewables- and transform the way in which we see energy production. Wind energy is now a major player: in 2016, more than 54GW of clean wind power was installed across the global market, and the global capacity for wind power grew by 12.6%. It’s clear that this resource has never been more popular.
But what has contributed to this stellar rise in interest for wind energy- and how is the market expected to change in the future?
The world is changing. The rise in awareness about the effects of climate change, coupled with influential global summits like the recent United Nations Conference, which led to the Paris Agreement and a global pact not to stop the world’s temperature rising by more than two degrees, has led to an increased push for renewable energy sources to meet the world’s energy needs. Countries are looking for low-carbon alternatives to coal and oil.
A worldwide rise in interest
This is where wind power comes in. A reliable source of green energy, advancing technology has resulted in a generation of wind farms that are more efficient than ever. Today, the average windmill can produce 6 million kWh in a year, and is estimated to meet 15- 17% of the EU’s electricity demand by 2020: as a result, governments and companies alike have been investing in wind power’s capabilities, with the result that this year wind energy became cheaper to buy and produce than nuclear power.
As a result, countries are waking up to the potential of wind power, with China and India in particular leading the push for green energy. The worldwide market is growing, especially in the east: in 2016, China installed almost three times as many wind turbines as in the US, cementing its status as a world leader and opening the market for contractors and investors abroad. Though the EU is currently leading the market when it comes to wind power, expect Asia to become a huge source of recruitment in coming years, especially as the Chinese government has pledged to invest up to $100bn in wind power projects by 2020, with demand for engineers, planners and project managers.
Alongside this comes increased innovation in the size and efficiency of wind turbines. Wind turbines have been gradually growing in size over the past few years- thanks to leaps in technology and the discovery that larger turbines produce more energy than their smaller counterparts- which also spells growth for the Construction sector, as workers are required to build much more labour-intensive windfarms.
The rise of offshore wind farms
Demand for skilled, specialised marine engineers is also set to increase with the rise in popularity of offshore wind farms. In addition to increased market interest in China, offshore wind looks set to be the other major source of growth within the wind energy sector over the next few years, as advances in technology has made offshore wind not only more viable, but 10% more productive than its onshore counterpart.
Indeed, investment in offshore wind has skyrocketed, especially in Europe, with a total European investment of €14bn in the sector last year. Now, thanks to the reduced cost of infrastructure and the technology needed to create the wind farms, it is even powering economic growth, with the UK due to reap £17.5bn worth of investment thanks to a variety of new projects launching off the coast in coming years.
In Europe, 11 projects worth €1.2bn, have reached final investment decisions, spelling out a healthy future for offshore wind- as well as an increased demand for people working in everything from Design and Manufacture to Construction and Installation: indeed, many notable firms like DONG are currently recruiting- DONG for the world’s largest offshore windfarm on the UK coast, whilst Wind Energy Europe aim to employ a record 716,000 staff by 2030. If there was any time to get involved in offshore wind, it’s now.
Looking to the future
The increased potential and popularity of wind energy points to a very healthy future for the industry, and for the thousands of jobs that rely on it. With the market in Asia due to take off, and offshore wind surging in popularity, expect recruitment and job openings in these areas to rise, whilst the demand for wind farm technicians will likely also rise to provide maintenance to the current, aging, wind farms.
Whether you’re looking to move abroad or branch out into another sector, one thing’s clear: wind power is not going anywhere.
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