From the Editor: Wind Sector Still Growing Fast

According to BTM Consult’s International Wind Energy Development — World Update 2010, the wind sector is still one of the world’s fastest growing energy-related industries.

With record installations of 39.4 GW over the year, market value is expected to grow from an estimated €66.8 billion in 2011 to €111.7 billion in 2015.

Total cumulative global installed wind generation capacity, meanwhile, has now grown to approximately 200 GW. This represents a staggering 25% increase over BTM’s 2009 market assessment.

Perhaps inevitably these figures are dominated by Asia and more specifically the Chinese market which, with some 18,928 MW of new capacity, recorded the highest volume ever by one country in a single year. This boom is, of course, tempered to a certain extent by a falling market in the US and Europe.

In the US, only 5115 MW of new capacity was installed in 2010 — about half that of 2009 — while Europe continues to lose market share, dropping from more than half of the global market to nearer a quarter over the space of four years. Nonetheless, Europe does still lead in the offshore wind stakes with nine new projects racking up a total of more than 1.4 GW of additional capacity, the majority in the UK, but with Denmark and Belgium also contributing.

Given that we are still only just emerging from the worst recession in more than 50 years, what does this imply for the future of the wind technology sector? All things considered, wind power is expected to deliver 1.92% of the world’s electricity in 2011 and current indications are that it may be able to meet 9.1% of global electricity demand by 2020. Looking forward, the report projects an average global growth rate of 15.5% per year for new annual installations through 2015, resulting in a total global capacity of 513.6 GW by 2015.

In the less predictable five-year period 2016-2020, the expectation is for an average annual growth rate of approximately 11.5%, closing in on the 1000 GW milestone by the end of 2020. By then, based on the International Energy Agency’s prediction of overall demand, wind power is expected to supply 9.1% of the world’s electricity, the analysis concludes.

BTM’s 2010 report followed an equally buoyant view released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). ‘The continued rapid growth of wind power despite the financial crisis and economic downturn is testament to the inherent attractiveness of the technology, which is clean, reliable and quick to install. Wind power has become the power technology of choice for a growing number of countries around the world,’ said Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary-general.

Sawyer’s comments aside, what role does technology play in this incredible success story? Clearly, by establishing an impressive track record of reliability, commercial viability and continued technological advancement, the industry has succeeded in securing significant long-term and ongoing investment. It is by securing this investment – effectively shorthand for building market confidence – that such impressive growth rates can be achieved and maintained. This confidence, ultimately, is built on the technology.

Several articles in this edition of our Wind Technology supplement consider issues that reflect this current of development with a look at the design limits of wind turbines in the drive to manufacture a 20 MW machine.

A significant step in that direction is explored in our lead feature on the latest developments to emerge from the wind technology sector. This article details new turbines, such as Vestas’ 7 MW V164 dedicated offshore machine with its proposed 164 metre rotor diameter.

Another key, and ongoing, trend among the major manufacturers is the development of existing series machines with adaptations to lower wind speeds or more turbulent regimes. This activity continues to expand the operational range of commercially viable machines. The issue is explored further in an article that features a report from TÜV SÜD Industrie Service. This article considers the expanding range these new machines can reach by opening previously unsuitable areas of woodland. Larger, taller machines can exploit such areas, opening the prospects for lucrative onshore installations, even in regions that may have previously been considered uneconomic.

Looking still further ahead we also review a forecast from DNV, which has considered the likely developments in wind technology, in particular advances in T&D, that will enable large volumes of wind capacity to be effectively distributed to demand centres.

The future is never certain, but it is more than evident that wind technology will be with us for a long time and, as always, the best technology will come out on top.

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