Wind Power: China Picks Up Pace

Global wind power installation increased by 35.8 GW in 2010, bringing total wind energy capacity up to 194.4 GW, a 22.5% increase on the 158.7 GW installed at the end of 2009, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

The increase represents investments totalling €47.3 billion (US$65 billion) and for the first time more than half of all new wind power was added outside of the traditional markets of Europe and North America, mainly driven, said GWEC, by the continuing boom in China which accounted for nearly half of all of the installations at 16.5 GW.

‘China now has 42.3 GW of wind power, and has surpassed the US in terms of total installed capacity,’ said Li Junfeng, secretary-general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).

‘This puts China firmly on a path to reach 200 GW of installed wind power by 2020. At the same time, China has become the world’s largest producer of wind energy equipment.’

But other developing countries also expanded their wind capacity over 2010, including India, which added2.1 GW, Brazil (326 MW) and Mexico (316 MW). North Africa — Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia — installed 213 MW.

‘Wind power is now rapidly expanding beyond the traditional “rich country” markets, a clear sign of its growing competitiveness,’ said Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary-general.

‘This is a trend we are expecting to see developing further in the future, not only in Asia. We are also seeing encouraging signs in Latin America, especially Brazil and Mexico, and in both Northern and sub-Saharan Africa,’ he added.

Overall, however, the wind market’s annual expansion was down for the first time in 20 years, shrinking by 7% from 38.6 GW in 2009, mainly due to a disappointing year in the US, as well as a slowdown in Europe.

The global financial crisis and low quantities of wind turbines orders working their way through the system combined with depressed OECD electricity demand as well as policy uncertainty in the US to curb growth.

The US, traditionally one of the strongest wind markets, saw its annual installations halve from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW in 2010.

‘Our industry continues to endure a boom-bust cycle because of the lack of long-term, predictable federal policies, in contrast to the permanent entitlements that fossil fuels have enjoyed for 90 years or more,’ said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

‘Now that we’re competing with natural gas on cost, we need consistent federal policies to ensure we have a diverse portfolio of energy sources in this country.’

In Europe, new installed capacity in 2010 (9.9 GW) was 7.5% down on 2009 (10.7 GW), despite a 50% growth of the offshore market in countries like the UK, Denmark and Belgium, and new developments in Eastern Europe, mainly in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.

‘These figures are a warning that we cannot take for granted the continued financing of renewable energy,’ said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

‘Better access to financing is urgently needed,’ he said, concluding: ‘The European Union must act without delay to prevent Europe losing its leadership in wind power and other renewable technologies.’

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