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Global Wind Power Capacity Increased 19 Percent in 2012

Wind power surged to a new record in 2012 with nearly 45 gigawatts (GW) of new installations, a 10 percent increase from 2011, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)'s Annual Market Update. Global installed capacity increased roughly 19 percent to 282.6 GW, which is slightly below the 22 percent average annual growth rate over the last 10 years.

The report, released earlier today, tracks about 79 countries, 24 of which have more than 1 GW installed (16 in Europe).

Thanks to the expiring production tax credit (PTC), the US connected over 13.1 GW of new wind power capacity in 2012, exceeding 50 GW of total wind power capacity, nearly a 30 percent increase from 2011. Canada added 935 MW of new wind capacity, a slowdown from 1.2 GW in 2011, but still its second-best year, while 2013 is expected to see a surge to 1.5 GW of new capacity. Mexico more than doubled its installed capacity in 2012 to exceed 1.3 GW.

China added nearly 13 GW of new wind capacity in 2012, a significant drop over the past three years. Nonetheless, China's electricity generated by wind energy surpassed 100 million MWh, making up 2 percent of the country's total electricity output (up from 1.5 percent in 2011). China's total cumulative installed wind power capacity is now more than 75 GW, nearly tripling over the past three years.

India is another key market for wind, but also saw a bit of a slowdown in 2012. New wind energy installations exceeded 2.3 GW, with 18.4 GW in cumulative total. Wind power accounted for about 69 percent of total renewable energy capacity of 26.9 GW in India. Japan, meanwhile, continues its slow transition to a diversified energy mix with more renewable energy options. The country added 88 MW of new installations in 2012 for a cumulative capacity of 2.6 GW, translating to roughly 0.5 percent of total power supply.

Wind energy's intermittency is surpassed only by the swell and ebb of policies (and politicians) that support it. GWEC projects annual wind installations worldwide will decline 11 percent in 2013 to just shy of 40 GW, "a much more significant drop in the market than we foresaw a year ago," due to the expected dropoff in the U.S., slow recovery in the Chinese and Indian markets, and a bit of a slowdown in Europe. For 2014 GWEC predicts a sharp recovery that will bring global installations slightly back above 2012 results, putting 2013-2017 average annual growth at nearly seven percent (just over 11 percent subtracting 2013's dip). By 2017 GWEC projects an annual global wind market of 61 GW, and cumulative installed capacity of roughly 536 GW.

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