Can You Spare a Wind Turbine, Man?
We recently wrote about the massive growth in the wind power industry and how forecasts estimate a 155% growth between now and 2012 (bringing total installed capacity to 240 gigawatts). Well, there's a dark cloud on the horizon. The problem is not with demand, but with supply.
If you want wind turbines to build a wind farm, take a number and grab a magazine, because the wait could be long. If you order now, you might not get the turbines before late 2009 or later, depending on your connections with suppliers. This is similar to what solar panel makers have been going through with the silicon shortage for the past few years.
As is often the case, there are two sides to this story. On the negative side:
You can look at the situation from both a pessimistic and an optimistic perspective. On the down side, the shortage puts a cap on the growth of wind power, which is one of the more cost-effective sources of renewable energy. There are a limited number of manufacturers of large turbines--General Electric, Vestas, etc.--so the picture won't change quickly. These things are big (the span of the blades can be larger than the wingspan of a 747) so it's not a manufacturing task for the lighthearted.
But on the positive side, because demand is so high, investors are confident enough to invest in new production capacity, and there is a strong incentive to improve the technology to make it cheaper to build but also more efficient at turning wind into clean electricity.