In the heat of the Gulf, it is hard to imagine the Middle East proving a worthwhile location for wind power producers. Considering its plentiful year-round sunshine, it is not surprising that solar projects tend to attract the most attention in the region. But those countries in the Middle East with sufficient wind capacity are making headway beyond solar. And Middle East wind developments are perhaps not as counterintuitive as they first appear – as visitors to the 2012 World Future Energy Summit (WFES) will testify, not to mention last year’s winner of the Zayed Future Energy Prize: Danish wind turbine leader, Vestas.
Realising innovation in the wind power sector will be a specific topic discussed by global delegates attending WFES 2012’s four-day conference. Wind offers a solution to the growing power requirements of countries without significant oil and gas resources, and is one of the few renewable energy technologies that require very little water in order to operate, a critical consideration in the arid Middle East. Egypt, which perhaps has the best wind profile in the region, has already installed capacity of 400 megawatts (MW), a figure it hopes to increase to 7,200 MW by 2020. In Lebanon, which currently imports all of its fuel needs, the government is researching a national wind atlas to pinpoint the best locations for development and encourage private investment.
Jordan wants 10 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, including at least 600 MW from wind. Even Iran is setting a positive example in the wind sector, with 100 MW of capacity installed to date. Political will and capital are clearly needed to help diversify the Middle East’s renewable energy mix, challenges that will be addressed at both the exhibition and conference of the WFES 2012. The fact that developing countries like China and India are ramping up capacity in wind power demonstrates the global opportunities in the sector, and offers encouragement to decision makers in the Middle East.
In the coming decades, wind power in the region may amount to a great deal more than hot air. Installed wind power capacity worldwide has reached 200 gigawatts (GW) in 2010, a modest 2.5 percent of net global electricity demand. But these numbers don’t reveal the full picture.
The World Wind Energy Association says the rate of new development in wind could see as much as 600 GW of global capacity installed by 2015, and 1,500 GW by 2020. Germany has been a model for wind power development in recent years, propelled by its traditional strengths in R&D and doubtless its blustery north European climate.
Today, the country is Europe’s biggest wind power producer, with 27.2 GW of installed capacity generating 6.2 percent of its overall electricity demand, a figure that could reach 25 percent by 2020. But as global industry and government leaders prepare to attend the fifth WFES in Abu Dhabi, attention is shifting towards the role of developing world energy producers in providing the next big gust of wind power growth.