Wind farm, Muppandal, Tamil Nadu, India

Credits: © Panos Pictures

A young boy walks past the turbines at Muppandal wind farm, Tamil Nadu, India. Muppandal is one of the largest wind farms in Asia.

In many of India's 600,000 villages, people are still reliant on traditional sources of energy, such as kerosene lamps, hurricane lanterns, candles or batteries.

Now, however, the government plans to massively expand its wind power programme to include village communities, where 80 per cent of India's one billion people still live. At present, India is fifth in the global wind power league table - behind Germany, Spain, the United States and Denmark. In mid-2003, its installed capacity was 1.870 megawatts (MW) - a figure the government plans to boost to 6000 MW by 2012. Other countries, including Britain, are also planning major investments in wind power. In fact, over the last decade wind has been the world's fastest-growing energy source. Rising from 4,800 MW of generating capacity in 1995 to 31,100 MW in 2002, enough to satisfy the residential needs of 40 million Europeans.

Wind is popular because it is abundant, cheap, inexhaustible, widely distributed, climate-benign, and clean, and its cost has dropped from 38¢ a kilowatt-hour in the early 1980s to roughly 4¢ a kilowatt-hour today on prime wind sites. Some, like Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute believe the planet's energy future lies with wind power. Others question its environmental impact on the landscape and the unreliability of wind itself as an energy force. But there is no denying that wind and wind-generated hydrogen have the potential to help shape a sustainable future.

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