Fossil fuels like oil, gas and natural gas have for many years been used for transportation, power production and heating. When burning these fuels carbon dioxide, CO2, is produced and released which contribute to the increase of global warming. The use of electricity causes emission of carbon dioxide as electricity is partly produced from fossil fuels.
The greenhouse gases we emit today will affect the earth's climate for many generations to come. That is why our actions are of great importance to climate change.
Globally, wind power will become an importance source when it comes to producing electricity. We don't have to go further than to Denmark, Sweden's neighboring country, whose aim is to produce half of its energy demand using wind power by 2030. The reason for the development of wind power is mainly its environmentally friendly aspects which are associated with the production. Political decisions similar to those that have been made in Sweden, have been made around the world, promoting this development. The Kyoto Protocol is an important keystone for this development and has prompted several countries to implement a subsidising system to promote wind power production.
The Swedish Energy Agency is responsible for making sure that the Swedish energy system is in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. This means that a larger quantity of energy must be extracted using renewable energy. In 2001 the authority presented a report which specified that Sweden were to produce 10 TWh of wind power within the next 10 to 15 years. In the same time interval, the European Union wants Sweden to produce 25 TWh of renewable energy, something that Sweden has agreed to.
The Kyoto Protocol entered into force at a UN conference in Japan on December 11th, 1997. Countries ratifying this protocol commit to reducing the amount of emitted greenhouse gases by 5.2% from the 1990 level during the period 2008-2012. The EU ratified the protocol on April 29, 1998.
The EU memeber states will in total reduce their emission of greenhouse gases by 8% during the period of 2008-2012 which is the highest percentage among those who have ratified the agreement. Should any of the countries emit more greenhouse gases by 2012 than has been agreed, they must reduce the emissions by 30% or more during the next period, starting 2013.
All developed countries except: the USA, Australia and Monaco have ratified the agreement, which amounts to 141 countries.
The fact that the US have dismissed the Kyoto Protocol is a huge backlash as they were to reduce their emissions by 7%. Although the population of the US only accounts for 4% of the world population, their emissions of greenhouse gases amount to 25%.
The Protocol entered into force on February 16, 2005, after Russia decided to ratify, even though the US have not joined.
The European Union is one of the largest energy consuming regions in the world, using approximately 15% of the world's consumption. Also, electricity production in the EU increases approximately 2% each year. This equals an increase by almost 300 GWh by 2020. A major part of the existing capacity must then be changed as the Kyoto Protocol states that the using of fossil fuels must be dramatically reduced. Further development of nuclear power is limited due to accidents, terror attacks and storage costs etc, and most water power resources have already been developed. The demand for electricity production from alternative energy sources such as wind power will therefore increase dramatically.
On the Swedish west coast there is only one major nuclear power plant, Ringhals. The second reactor at Barsebäck, which was the last one to be operated, was shut down in May 2005. Sweden needs to replace this energy production, which means that marine wind farms with a substantial production capacity are in the interest of the public.
Among the sites that have been chosen by the National Housing Board as suitable for establishing marine based wind farms is the Swedish part of Stora Middelgrund in the Kattegatt. Stora Middelgrund fulfills the criteria for establishing a marine based wind farm as the area is:
- Large enough and has a limited depth and
- Far enough from the coast to limit the visual impact
With regard to this and to prevailing wind situations, the area has been chosen by Universal Wind Offshore AB for continuing investigations for the building of a wind farm with an installed power capacity of 800 MW (3 TWh/year).
The building of a wind farm at Stora Middelgrund could reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by between 1 and 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide/year.
A wind farm would also contibrute to the reduction of secondary effects such as:
- Regional effects, fallout of nitrogen and sulphur
- Transportation to and from the power plant, barrier effects, noise and emissions
- Intrusion due to extraction of natural resources
Mentioned effects such as the farm's impact on the surrounding marine environment and other interests, fishing, recreation etc. will be illustrated in the environmental impact assessment currently being written by the company and will be included in future licence applications.