Wind power is generating a storm of investment with the growth in global wind capacity for 2008 alone exceeding the average growth rate for the past 10 years.
Global wind capacity increased an estimated 27,051 megawatts (MW) in 2008, ending the year at 120,798 MW, according to the latest research from Washington-based research group Worldwatch Institute. This represented a growth of 29% in 2008 with the U.S. overtaking Germany as the world's leading wind power generator.
U.S. capacity jumped by 50 percent - or 8,358 MW - in 2008 to 25,170 MW but there could have been up to 4,000 MW more if not for the delayed extension of the federal Production Tax Credit, which caused some developers to postpone investment until 2009. In the U.S., Texas remains the strongest wind state, with more than double the capacity of its nearest rival, Iowa.
For the first time, wind power represented Europe's leading source of new electric capacity with 8,877 MW added. This was well ahead of natural gas at 6,939 MW and coal at 763 MW. By the end of 2008, wind power accounted for 8 percent of European Union's (EU) power capacity, enough to generate 4.2 percent of the region's annual power needs. This brings Europe's total wind capacity for 2008 to 65,946 MW, which is 55 percent of the global total.
In Europe, Germany remained the strongest wind power nation. New installations dropped slightly by 2 MW over 2007, but the country still added 1,665 MW for a total of 23,903 MW. This represents 7.5 percent of Germany's net electricity demand. The German Wind Energy Institute projects that wind power could meet 31% of that demand by 2030.
Spain placed fourth worldwide for new installations in 2008, adding 1,609 MW to bring its total to 16,740 MW. Wind power accounted for more than 11 percent of electricity last year and, according to Spanish utility Endesa (Madrid, Spain), drove down electricity prices in 2008.
Asia accounted for almost one-third of global wind capacity additions in 2008. China ranked second after the United States, with approximately 6,300 MW installed during the year. This doubled its cumulative wind capacity for the fourth year in a row and its total of 12,200 MW already exceeds its 2010 target of 10,000 MW. The Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association projects that wind capacity will hit 50,000 MW by 2015.
India ranked third in wind capacity additions in 2008, with 1,800 megawatts of new wind added. It lies in fifth place globally for wind installations behind the United States, Germany, Spain, and China with a total of 9,645 MW.
Overall, the majority of wind production is still carried out by onshore wind farms but the offshore share is growing, the researchers said. Most of the offshore facilities springing up are located in Europe. Nine EU countries had operational windfarms in 2008, up from five in 2007. About 357 MW of offshore wind capacity was added last year to bring the total to 1,486 MW. However, more than 30,822 MW of offshore power is either under construction or being planned in Europe and is expected to go live by 2015. The global market for wind turbine installations in 2008 was worth about $47.5 billion, an increase of approximately 42 percent over 2007. However, the global economic crisis is having a notable impact on the wind industry right now with investments in turbines and components down in 2009. Many countries are currently implementing plans to help boost the renewables sector and get investment back on track. For additional information, see May 14, 2009, news article - World's Largest Windfarm Gets Green Light and March 26, 2009, news article - Financial Crisis and Policy Support for Renewable Energy Project Development.
IIR's Renewable Energy Database provides extensive coverage on the wind energy, geothermal, hydroelectric, landfill-gas-to-energy and utility-scale solar power plants throughout North America, and is now expanding coverage across the world.
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