The international demand for wind energy slowed a bit last year, but remained strong with 3,500 megawatts being installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
WASHINGTON, DC – The global growth in 2000 was 26 percent in total capacity, compared with 37 percent in 1999. The slight slowing was due to a temporary dip in the U.S. market, where only 53 MW was installed compared to 732 MW in 1999. Preliminary estimates indicate that 3,500 MW of new utility-scale wind energy capacity came online, pushing the total to 17,000 MW. That capacity can generate 34 billion kWh of electricity each year. “It’s ironic that at a time when California and much of the West is reeling from a shortage in electric generation capacity, the growth of one of the most promising and economical new electricity sources has been hampered by on-again, off-again federal government policies,” says executive director Randall Swisher. “The U.S. came within a whisker of letting its federal support mechanism for wind (the wind energy production tax credit) permanently expire in 1999.” The credit did expire for a few months in 1999 before being retroactively extended, and the domestic market for wind in 2000 almost completely dried up, he adds. The credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of generation from new wind plants during the first ten years will expire again at the end of this year unless extended by Congress. AWEA expects a banner year for wind, with as much as 2,000 MW of new capacity being installed in the U.S. and global totals also surging. “We are in the boom year of the boom-and-bust cycle that Congress ordained when it provided only a 2.5 year extension of the PTC,” explains Swisher. “It will be fun while it lasts, but it’s a long way from the kind of sustained, orderly development that this industry needs to become a major contributor to California, and U.S., electricity supply.” Congress urgently needs to act on several bills now pending that would extend the incentive for five or ten years, or permanently, he adds. The steady growth of wind energy in Europe over the past decade provides a “striking contrast” to what has happened in the U.S., explains Swisher. “Growth in the European wind energy market has been so strong and steady that the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has raised its goal for the region by 50 percent, from 40,000 MW of installed capacity by 2010 to 60,000 MW.” Last year, European countries installed 3,200 MW of new wind generation, or 90 percent of new global capacity. More than half of that new growth was installed in Germany, which remains the global leader with 6,113 MW of total capacity. The U.S. ranks second with 2,554 MW, followed by Spain at 2,250 MW. The other leading countries are Denmark (2,140 MW), India (1,167 MW), the Netherlands (449 MW), Italy (420 MW), the United Kingdom (400 MW), China (265 MW) and Sweden (226 MW), according to AWEA. Other large additions of wind power last year were made in Denmark (400 MW) and Italy (170 MW). AWEA predicts that new installations this year will exceed 5,000 MW and push the global total past the 20,000 mark. Several large wind farms are almost complete in the U.S., including four facilities of at least 200 MW in Texas, California and the Pacific Northwest. Electricity has been contracted at less than 3 cents per kWh, compared with up to 20 cents for natural gas this winter in California. AWEA was formed in 1974 to represent the U.S. wind energy industry.