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In 2010 Wind Energy in Europe was Slower but Still Strong

Nearly 9.3 GW of new wind power capacity was installed in 2010, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). That's down 10 percent over the year before.

Wind power installations accounted for 17 percent of new power capacity in 2010 – the first time since 2007 that sector was unable to install more new capacity than any other electricity-generating technology, according to an EWEA study. In 2009, wind power accounted for 39 percent of new installations.

Investments in the sector also dipped slightly to €12.7 billion ($17.5 billion ) from €13 billion the year before. The European Commission can’t be happy about that. Earlier this week, it warned in a statement that the European Union’s capital investment in wind, solar and biofuels needs to double to 70 billion a year to ensure the bloc meets its goal of deriving 20 percent of energy from renewable by 2020.

“These figures are a warning that we cannot take for granted the continued financing of renewable energy,” EWEA chief executive officer Christian Kjaer said in a statement. “Better access to financing is urgently needed, and the European Union must act without delay to prevent Europe losing its leadership in wind power and other renewable technologies.”

Despite the slight slowdown, demand for offshore wind parks continued in 2010, steadily nibbling away at the dominance of onshore parks. New offshore installations soared 51 percent to 883 MW while new land-based turbines declined 13.9 percent to 8.4 GW. Overall, offshore installations accounted for 9.5 percent of total EU installations in 2010.

The upward trend for offshore wind is likely to continue. Last week, for instance, the French government announced plans to seek investors for a €10 billion project to build the country’s first offshore wind-power facilities. The project calls for the installation of 600 wind turbines, capable of generating 3 GW of energy, at a number of sites along France’s lengthy Atlantic coastline.

Last year, Spain led the pack in Europe, installing 1,516 MW, compared with Germany, coming in second with 1,493 MW. France, with 1,086 MW, was the only other country to install more than 1 GW.

Since 1995, installations of wind power have increased steadily, with an annual average growth of 17.6 percent. The overall market for renewable power capacity, including wind, solar, hydro and biomass, hit record levels in 2010, increasing 31 percent to 22.6 GW compared to 17.5 GW the previous year.

The EU continues to move away from fuel oil and nuclear power for electricity production. Yet, for only the second time since 1998, it installed more coal capacity than it decommissioned in 2010. Some 28 GW of new natural gas capacity was also installed last year, representing 51 percent of all new power capacity last year.

The wind capacity installed by the end of 2010 would, in a normal year, could produce 181 TWh of electricity, representing 5.3 percent of the EU’s electricity consumption. 


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