46 countries help set record for newly installed wind power

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wind power graph

Those are the latest findings from the World Wind Energy Association, which advocates for wind energy development from its headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

Overall, global wind energy capacity rose 19 percent in 2012, from about 236,700 megawatts to 282,300 MW installed across 100 countries, according to WWEA’s 2012 annual report, issued last week.

While still robust, that growth rate represents a slowdown from 2009, when global wind energy capacity jumped by 32 percent in one year, from just under 121,000 MW to nearly 160,000 MW. Annual growth in global power wind installations had not dropped below 20 percent for two decades, according to the group.

Yet in total megawatts, the industry has expanded sevenfold over the last 10 years. In 2003, turbines accounted for less than 40,000 MW of generation, with most of the industry concentrated in Western Europe. By comparison, the United States and China installed more than half that amount last year alone, according to the report.

“The contribution of wind power to the energy supply has reached a substantial share even on the global level: All wind turbines installed around the globe by the end of 2011 contribute potentially 580 terawatt-hours to the worldwide electricity supply, more than 3 percent of the global electricity demand,” the group said in its latest annual report.

U.S. and China lead

2012 set a record for new turbine installations at 44,600 MW of capacity, up 12 percent from 2011. The largest share of those new turbines went up in the United States and China, each of which added an estimated 13,000 MW of capacity. In total, 46 countries added wind power to their grids in 2012, according to the report, accounting for $75 billion in spending.

“Without doubt, wind power has become a pillar of the energy systems in many countries and is recognised as a reliable and affordable source of electricity,” the report states.

By 2016 the association projects global wind energy capacity to exceed 500,000 MW, and it says 1 million MW of generation is feasible by 2020 if economic and political conditions remain favorable for wind developers.

While noting the very strong growth in U.S. wind energy installations for 2012, WWEA said, “There are still major regulatory uncertainties in North America,” in particular the possible phaseout of the federal production tax credit for wind developers. The report also noted that Canada’s wind sector cooled considerably in 2012, largely because of opposition to Ontario’s Green Energy Act, which created lucrative incentives to build wind farms.

In Asia, China and India remained the dominant wind energy producers in 2012, followed by Japan, Turkey, South Korea and Pakistan, according to WWEA. China accounts for 75 percent of Asia’s wind energy market, while India has 18 percent. Japan and South Korea both have adopted ambitious offshore wind programs, but they face difficult technical challenges due to deep water, according to the report.

Japan ranked as the world’s 13th largest wind energy producer in 2012, with 2,600 MW of installed capacity, while South Korea ranked 30th at 483 MW.

Future growth likely to come in emerging markets

If current trends hold, much of the industry’s future growth will come in emerging markets such as Latin America, where wind power saw 56 percent year-over-year growth in 2012, led by Argentina (80 percent), Brazil (75 percent), Nicaragua (62 percent) and Mexico (45 percent). Latin America’s recent growth spurt was enough to attract WWEA to host its international conference next month in Havana.

Among Europe’s traditional wind power leaders, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain registered the largest number of new installations in 2012, with a combined 6,700 MW of newly installed capacity, according to WWEA

The world’s fastest-growing wind power sectors for 2012, however, were in Eastern Europe — Romania, Poland and Ukraine.

Romania, which registered only 7 MW of wind energy capacity as recently as 2007, has witnessed a development explosion over the past five years and now claims more than 1,900 MW of wind power, according to WWEA. Poland added 880 MW of wind power to its grid in 2012, while Ukraine added 125 MW of new capacity, reflecting an 83 percent growth rate.

Other countries reporting significant expansions of wind energy in 2012 were Sweden (846 MW), France (757 MW), Turkey (506 MW), Belgium (297 MW), Austria (296 MW) and Denmark (217 MW). Notably absent from the world’s major wind energy sectors was Russia, with estimates of only 16.8 MW of installed capacity nationwide, ranking it 66th in the world.

Other traditionally lagging countries that are expected to see more wind energy development rates over the coming years include Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in north Africa as well as Ethiopia and South Africa.

WWEA suggested that new political support systems, such as feed-in tariffs, will be necessary to stimulate wind energy development on the continent, and that “special consideration should be given to small-scaled and hybrid systems for rural electrification so that hundreds of millions of Africans in unserved areas can eventually benefit from modern electricity services.”