Wind energy is the power extracted from wind using wind turbines. A wind turbine is a device that transforms the kinetic energy of the wind into electrical energy. Wind energy is a renewable form of energy that is available in ample quantity and extensively. It is an alternative to fossil fuels which are depleting in quantity. Wind energy is the cleanest resource; it has neither toxic gas emissions nor greenhouse gas emissions. Wind turbines are connected to the network of electricity transmission. The onshore and offshore wind that is trapped is an inexpensive, competitive and significant source of energy. Wind energy contributed to 4% of the total global electricity usage in 2013.
The application of wind turbines is primarily in wind mills that are used to generate electricity. These wind turbines in wind mills can be used to avail off-grid electricity in the remote regions. It has been known to empower rural electrification initiatives. Three fourths of the small wind turbines are present in the remote regions of the world and are the only sources of energy. For instance, wind power systems are fuelling the telecommunication towers in the secluded places between Argentina and Chile. Another application of wind turbines is associated with the hybrids of wind and solar power generation devices. Wind and solar sources complement each other in changing climatic conditions. Wind turbines have vital applications in off-grid, low-power systems in which the storage of batteries is avoided. Wind turbines also have application in cathodic protection pipes in which its electric charge neutralizes the galvanic corrosion of pipes laid in reactive soils. Wind turbines are used to charge electric fences, yacht and boat batteries efficiently. Wind turbines have been used to pump water for decades, and they remain a significant application in both developed and developing economies. The end use industries of wind turbines can be broadly classified into industrial, commercial and residential. The industrial use can be further divided into power generation, agriculture, industrial automation, engineering and telecommunication. Despite being commercially niche market at present, wind turbines are expected to expand due to increasing government subsidies and incentive programmes on the use of wind energy.
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The global wind industry produced about 37,000 MW in 2013. Latin America, in particular, has provided the industry with an essential substitute growth market for wind power. In 2013, Latin America alone represented approximately 45% of the installed capacity of North and South America combined. It was largely driven by the wind markets of Brazil and Mexico which can be regarded as the dual pillars of the Latin American market. The average price of wind energy contracts in Brazil is US$ 50/MWh and gives wind energy an edge over conventional fossil fuels there. This is a major driver for the wind turbine market in Brazil. The wind power in Mexico provides power to over 65,000 households and exports it to US. Food and beverage company, Nestle, had invested US$ 60.7 million in wind energy in Mexico, and employed wind energy for its 85% electricity requirement. The cumulative wind capacity in Mexico reached 1988 MW by the end of 2013 indicating a 31.4% growth rate. The installed capacity in 2013 was 76 MW in Argentina, 200 MW in Chile, 30 MW in Peru, 11 MW in Uruguay, and149 MW in Venezuela.
Strong wind resources, and rising electricity prices and energy demand are driving the demand for renewable energy higher. The Latin American industrial policies are effective as they have tailored depreciation tax policies which enable industries to actively partner with wind energy generators for their energy usage. Also, wind plants do not need to be in the vicinity of the end user and just need a connection to the Latin American power grids. Feed-in electricity tariffs have been introduced to motivate the use of renewable energy such as wind energy, solar energy, hydropower, thermal energy and biomass energy. This encourages investment in renewable energy as the government makes provisions for higher retail rates for electricity for the producers of new energy technologies.
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Consistently declining monopoly in the Latin American electricity sector had paved way for wind turbine manufacturers. The current wind turbine market is competitive. Gamesa is the leading turbine supplier in Mexico and holds 73.5% of the market. It is followed by Vestas with 22% of the market contribution. GE is also a major turbine manufacturer with 4.5% market share in Mexico. Besides, the collapse of the Spain-based OEMs (Other Equipment Manufacturers) wind market has compelled companies to expand their business in Latin America.
By 2015, Latin America is expected to have 3 GW of installed wind capacity annually, surging up to 4.3 GW by 2022. The manufacturers have to meet certain mandates on wind turbine components and their materials. It is a challenge for most OEMs to deliver high quality wind turbines while still ensuring an economical Latin American wind market.