Ares is the name that our company has metaphorically ‘borrowed’ from the Greek god of war, in order to carry out our activity in the field of renewable energies and give our contribution in the fight against climate change. Wind power can indeed reduce the use of fossil fuels, which means less CO2 emissions, atmospheric aerosol particles and other climate-altering substances, which are responsible for the greenhouse effect.
The Earth is warming up. According to the NASA, in 2019 the average temperature was 0.98° C higher than pre-industrial levels. Due to global warming, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising. Furthermore, climate change is occurring, causing desertification and increased extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods and fires. All of this may provoke incalculable damage. The scientific community agrees that the cause is to be found in man-made greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. So much as 90 % of carbon dioxide emissions come from the energy sector, especially coal power plants.
In December 2015, the Paris climate agreement was signed and the countries agreed to a common target: to keep global warming below 2° C above pre-industrial levels and possibly limit it below 1.5° C. We can only achieve this goal by bringing about an energy transition: a shift from a fossil fuel-based system towards a carbon-neutral approach, based on renewable energies.
Wind represents an abundant, inexhaustible and unlimited energy source, which can be found on most of the earth surface. For thousands of years men have been aware of how precious wind power is for our everyday life, from sailing boats to mills. And for more than one century we have been able to transform the movement of big air masses into electrical power, which can either be used directly where it is generated or from a distance, in space or time. Today, wind power has got what it takes to play a leading role in the international energy transition towards green energy sources.
Unlike coal or gas power plants, wind farms do not release any greenhouse gases. In 2019 only, wind power generation prevented 198 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, wind power contributed to reducing the use of water, which is often needed by fossil fuel power stations. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), wind power deployment, together with increased renewable-based electrification, could deliver one quarter of the annual CO2 emission reduction, which is needed to achieve the target set by the Paris Agreement by 2050.
Among the green energy sources, wind power has got the lowest overall impact, as in terms of emissions and use of resources, it is limited to the plant production, transport and installation phases. Not to mention that, in most cases, wind installations are located on mountains, hills or out at sea and, even when they are installed on fields or gentle slopes, the land can still be used to grow crops or graze livestock, without any problem.
Maintaining a wind power plant in operation has become easier thanks to technological progress. Save for breakdowns and exceptional events – which have become increasingly rare thanks to ever-reliable models and digital monitoring systems that ensure better and better performances – preventive maintenance is carried out to increase the wind farms’ reliability and productivity and enable WTGs to operate for a long time, well above twenty years.
It is correct to say that wind installations are almost completely reversible. This means that, at the end of the plant’s life, everything can be restored to its original state: the land where the plant stands can be completely recovered; the plant can be dismantled in its base components; and the materials can be recycled. In actual fact, a new-generation plant can be created using the same raw materials, in a circular economy model.
Furthermore, thanks to environmental compensation projects to be agreed with local administrative bodies, wind power fosters the economic development of the areas concerned.
Last but not least, the wind sector drives the creation of new jobs. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the wind industry could employ six million people worldwide by 2050, a number that is six times higher than current figures. In the USA only, the wind sector employs over 100,000 people and the “wind turbine technician” is one of the highest-growing jobs in the country.
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Technological progress and innovation have decisively contributed to wind power development. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), wind power capacity has reached 65 GW in 2020, with an increase of 8% as compared to 2019, despite the problems caused by the Covid-19 emergency. A further acceleration to 68 GW is set to occur in 2021, whereas the overall capacity could reach 100 GW by 2025. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), by 2050 wind power could cover more than one-third of global power needs (35%), thanks to technological improvements which will make wind power costs increasingly competitive.
As far as Italy is concerned, according to 2020 estimates, the installed power capacity throughout the country has exceeded 11 gigawatts, after reaching 10.2 GW at the end of 2018 (with a +0.5 increase as compared to previous year) and 10.6 GW at the end of 2019 (+ 0.4). According to the ANEV (the Italian National Association of Wind Energy), at the end of 2019 the number of wind power plants installed in Italy were more than 7,100.
The power generated from wind sources has increased as well: the 2020 Renewable Energy Report estimates that in 2020 the electricity generated by wind power plants increased well above 20 terawatt-hours.
Agencies and analysts predict that the Italian wind sector will see spectacular growth by 2030, with figures doubling within a decade. According to the Italian energy services operator (GSE), in the next ten years the installed capacity will reach 19 gigawatts and the annual energy output will increase by more than 100% as compared to the beginning of the decade, going from 20 to 40 terawatt-hours.
The rise of the Italian wind sector should start in the first years of this decade. Currently, Italy ranks fifth among European countries for its overall installed capacity (2019 data), behind Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and France. However, it ranks below the 10th position as far as the ratio between the energy generated and the country’s surface is concerned, and it is further behind in terms of per capita production. In an international context marked by strong acceleration in the use of wind power, next years will be decisive for Italy as well.