Powering Change Since 1982

In early September 1982, a handful of European manufacturers of agricultural machinery flew to California to assess the market for wind energy. A few weeks later, they returned with enough orders to start series production of wind turbines. Before the year was out, 25-30 turbines had been shipped and installed; the following year, 350 wind turbines, with a total capacity of 20 MW, were exported. This was the start of what became known as the ‘California wind rush’; the modern wind energy industry was born.

At this time, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA, now WindEurope) was formally launched in Stockholm. Its express aim, in the words of its first chairman, Gijsbrecht ‘George’ Piepers, was “to bring together the very large body of people working in this technology throughout Europe.”

An industrial success story

By 2012, when EWEA celebrated its 30th anniversary, it had spent three decades at the helm of European wind energy policy, growing in tandem with the wind industry itself and fostering its contemporary status as a major player in the energy industry.

Wind turbine generators have grown from 55 kW in 1982 to 5,000 kW today; rotor diameters have stretched from 15 metres to 126 metres; global installed capacity, which was 100 MW in 1980, is now 194,000 MW.

In Europe, wind energy’s share of power supply has increased from 0.001% to 4%, and European manufacturers continue to dominate the rapidly growing global market. Wind power is undoubtedly one of the biggest European industrial success stories in the past quarter of a century.

Words and watts

Since taking on the challenge of promoting wind energy EWEA (now WindEurope) has become the driving force behind the development of a sustainable energy supply. The road to this achievement has been long, and has required a great deal of research, learning and development, as well as a passion for the cause.

At the end of the 1970s, when the wind energy industry’s magazine ‘Wind Directions’ was first published, it was hoped that it would become a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on wind power. When EWEA was established in September 1982, its main goals – “to raise the level of cooperation between Europe’s wind power organisations and spur an international awareness of the potential of wind energy” – were set out on these pages.

During the early years of the Association’s life, the wind energy industry as we now know it today was still an unrealised ambition. As John Twidell (Director of the AMSET Centre, Ltd.) recalls about the first meetings, “We had more words than megawatts.”

Today, we have the megawatts.

In 2010, when renewables accounted for 41% of all electricity generating capacity installed in the EU, 17% alone was wind power. Recent EU-wide legislation has set a target of sourcing 20% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. This means that, in the electricity sector, 34% of all consumption should be met by renewables by that same year, with wind power accounting for 15% to 18% of all electricity consumption by 2020.

Wind power today