History of Wind Energy
Wind energy has always been important for mankind. Throughout history, wind has been an indispensable resource for movement on water. From driving the sailing ships of traders, to powering grain mills and pumping water by means of windmills, the importance of wind energy to us throughout the ages can easily be understood.
The earliest recorded windmill in Ireland dates from 1281 (Kilscanlon, Co. Wexford) and by 1840 the sails of 250 windmills turned on our hilltops. Until such time as steam power took over, followed by electricity, the driving force of the wind was extensively harnessed to power tools. These tools did the work of many people and meant progress in different areas of industry could be accelerated.
Wind Energy Today
Over the last few decades wind energy has aroused renewed interest due to it's environmental benefits over fossil fuel combustion (fuels such as coal, oil, gas and peat are fossil fuels which take thousands of years to form and create pollution and climate change) and to the increased security it can deliver to Ireland's fuel supply (about 90% of Ireland's energy currently comes from imports, making us the least self-sufficient country in the industrialised world).
Ireland has one of the best wind resources in the world. The red and blue areas on the European Wind Atlas show the highest wind speeds in Europe - almost the entire country of Ireland has either an excellent or very good wind resource.
At the end of 2010 a total of 84,000 MW of wind energy was installed in Europe (EU-27). In recent years more wind energy capacity has been installed than any other form of generation including gas, nuclear or hydro.
Europe are the world leaders in wind power, responsible for three quarters of the world's production of wind-generated electricity; 15% coming from the United States and 10% from the rest of the world, notably India, Japan, China and Canada. The European leaders are Germany, which owns one third of the continent's installed power, followed by Spain and Denmark. China has huge plans in wind energy and has been competing with the US for first place in the league table of installed wind generators.