Wind power has been harnessed throughout civilisation, and as well as being traditionally used to power sailing boats, it was also utilised to drive mechanisms (windmills) for grinding corn or pumping water. The earliest known reference to the widespread use of windmills dates back to around 9th century Persia, when vertical axle windmills were developed and used mainly to pump water for irrigation. These days wind power technology has advanced to the point where we can now harness the energy of wind efficiently, and convert it through wind turbine machines into electricity.

Wind energy is a plentiful and renewable resource, and is also a much cleaner way of producing electricity than using fossil fuels. Experts believe that wind power is one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources, but it is also one of the most inconsistent. Because of the intermittency of the required wind energy to power turbines at their higher levels, wind power cannot sustain a high demand for electricity. With current technology, wind power can only be used to support existing, more conventional power supplies.

The practical application of wind power is also an issue. Wind power turbines come in a variety of sizes, but those used at a commercial level are huge, because the larger the blade and its rotating area, the more power can potentially be produced. For example a typical mid sized 1750kW wind turbine stands at about 66m tall, with blades that span 36m. To produce a significant amount of electricity, these turbines are grouped together in small wind power stations called ‘wind farms’. The space needed to utilise these turbines effectively is considerable, leading to issues and conflicts about where they can be built.

Wind farms sites rely not just on the availability of wind, but also on several other factors such as construction and land acquisition costs and the availability of power transmission lines. Off shore wind farms have the highest construction and transmitting costs, but they also more reliable and yield much higher annual loads, with relatively low production costs.