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Owens Corning is increasing its composite reinforcement capacity to support expected growth for its products in the emerging wind energy market.
“The industry has achieved an average annual growth of 35% over the last 5 years and we project a double-digit growth rate for the next 5 years” said Agusti Porta, global market manager, Wind Energy. “As such, we have committed the resources to continue playing a major role in the success of the industry.”
Wind energy’s 35% annual growth has been driven primarily by global environmental concerns, especially the emission of Carbon Dioxide. The Kyoto Protocol will be perhaps the single biggest catalyst for growth because it calls for the implementation of a global trading green energy mechanism that will promote the construction of wind farms in developing countries by 2005. The protocol provide for the energy utilities in developed countries to be able to purchase wind-generated energy certificates from producers in other parts of the world in order to balance their energy source mix.
Other reasons for the continued growth of wind energy include geo-political issues concerning the availability of fuel, diminishing supplies of other natural resources and a broad-scale effort to educate consumers on the benefits of wind energy.
Industry forecasts now predict a 10-20% global market growth through 2006, led by Europe and North America.
In Europe the wind energy market is growing dramatically due, in part, to the European Renewable Directive that states that 12% of energy must come from renewable resources by 2010. In response the European wind energy market has grown 40% over the last 3 years, primarily in Denmark, Germany, Spain and Italy.
In North America, forecasted growth for the next 5 years is 15-2-%, driven mainly by the environmental concerns of carbon dioxide emissions. There is political support in the short term with Production Tax Credits, and expected support in the long term with the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
India and Brazil also offer tremendous opportunities for wind energy growth. India will lead the growth in Asia largely due to the political support for renewable energy resources and the increasingly high demand for energy as the nation develops. IN Latin America, Brazil will lead the growth of wind energy.
The cost of using wind energy to generate electricity is higher than the cost of using coal or natural gas, but this cost is being reduced rapidly. While coal energy runs around US$.02-$.035/kWH, and natural gas runs from $.03-$.05/kWH, wind energy is currently in the $.04-$.06/kWH range. Industry reports indicate that wind energy will be competitive in the next 3-5 years, due to the optimization of wind turbine system output.
Another promising opportunity is with the development of offshore wind farms which provide higher efficiency due to the more constant wind flow from the ocean breezes. Offshore wind farms also have the advantage of lessened visual impact in areas with large populations and land restrictions.
Owens also has several technical programs underway that include, amongst others, new materials for blades that will maximise fatigue performance. Additionally, Owens Corning is exploring the possibility of generating electricity for its own worldwide facilities through the installation of wind turbines on its properties.
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