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Wind and Solar: The Action Continues

Why do we hear so much about wind and solar when there are so many attractive renewable energy options out there? Well, that's where most of the action is today.

A couple of new reports out this week highlight the incredible momentum both industries have at the moment, despite the poor international economic conditions.

The first is a report from IMS Resarch, which projects that global installations of solar PV will be around 17 GW. Over the last few months a number of research firms have had to adjust their numbers upward due to higher-than-expected demand in Europe.

That 16-17 GW of installed capacity will double what was put online in 2009.

The high demand in European countries like Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic could fall sharply in 2011, as governments scale back incentive programs. Many analysts are looking to the U.S., Korean and Chinese markets to pick up the slackening demand in Europe.

Even with a few big markets fizzling out, some reports put 2011 solar PV demand at around 20 GW. Others say that the market will fall flat, with around 16 GW.

The second report came from the European Commission, which looked at growth of the energy sector across the region in the coming years. The EC projects that 41% of all energy installations in the next 20 years will be wind. Another 23% will come from other renewables like solar, biomass and hydro.

By comparison, the EC projects 17% of new capacity to come from gas, 12% from coal, 4% from nuclear and 3% from oil.

If those predictions are accurate, that would mean 136 GW of new wind projects will be deployed across Europe, representing 14% of electricity supply. There are 80 GW of wind installed in Europe today.

These are, of course, only predictions. Unforeseen incidents (like a global financial catastrophe or governments toying with incentives) often slow down or accelerate the adoption of renewables. For example, demand for wind has fallen precipitously in the U.S. because of the economic downturn. At the same time, solar installations have reached staggeringly high levels, partly because of a rush by solar companies to capture incentives before they're reduced.

No one should expect these projections to play out exactly as stated. But they certainly point to one obvious conclusion: Wind and solar will continue to lead in new energy development.

Below, Ian Mays, managing director of the RES group, gives his prediction on what role wind will play in the EU through 2020.

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