Global Wind Power Capacity Reaches 100,000 Megawatt
At its current growth rate, global installed wind power capacity will top 100,000 megawatts in March 2008. In 2007, wind power capacity increased by a record-breaking 20,000 megawatts, bringing the world total to 94,100 megawatts—enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 150 million people. Driven by concerns regarding climate change and energy security, one in every three countries now generates a portion of its electricity from wind, with 13 countries each exceeding 1,000 megawatts of installed wind electricity-generating capacity.
In Europe, the 8,660 megawatts of wind power capacity added in 2007 accounted for 40 percent of all new power installations. This marks the first year in history that wind power additions in Europe exceeded the additions of any other power source, including natural gas. Wind-generated electricity now meets nearly 4 percent of Europe’s electricity demand, enough to supply electricity to 90 million residents.
Germany is still the frontrunner in total installed wind power capacity, with 22,200 megawatts. Growth in Germany is slowing because of a saturation of suitable onshore sites and a decrease in the feed-in tariff for wind power. Countrywide, Germany generates more than 7 percent of its electricity from the wind.
Spain proved to be the shocker in the European market in 2007, installing 3,520 megawatts—the highest number ever in Europe in a single year. Spain now ranks third in total installed wind capacity with 15,100 megawatts. And with wind energy supplying 10% of the country’s electricity, Spain is second only to Denmark in terms of percentage of electricity generated this way.
France also demonstrated impressive gains in 2007, increasing its total installed wind capacity by 57% to 2,450 megawatts.
For the third consecutive year, the United States led the world in new installations, with its 5,240 megawatts accounting for one-quarter of global installations in 2007. Installations in the fourth quarter of 2007 alone exceeded the figure for all of 2006, and the United States is on track to overtake Germany as the leader in installed wind power by the end of 2009. Wind farms are now found in 34 states and total 16,800 megawatts
The electrical output from these farms is equivalent to that from 16 coal-fired power plants and is enough to power 4.5 million U.S. homes.
After passing California to become the leader in installed U.S. wind power capacity in 2006, Texas maintained its lead in 2007 by expanding its total capacity to 4,360 megawatts. Minnesota, Iowa, and Washington round out the top five leading states. Texas is now planning the development of 23,000 megawatts of wind power capacity, enough to satisfy over half the residential electricity demand in the state. At the national level, wind farm proposals exceed an astounding 100,000 megawatts, roughly six times the current installed capacity.
India installed 1,730 megawatts of new wind power capacity in 2007. With total installed capacity reaching 8,000 megawatts, India retained its fourth place on the list of top wind power countries.
China installed 3,450 megawatts of wind capacity in 2007, a 156% increase over 2006. With 6,050 megawatts of total installed capacity at the end of 2007, China has already exceeded its recent 2010 goal of 5,000 megawatts. The Renewable Energy Law (REL), which entered into force on January 1, 2006, is encouraging wind energy growth. The REL was established to help China meet its goal of generating 15% of the country’s energy from renewables by 2020. It mandates power producers to increase their ownership of non-hydro renewables to 3% by 2010 and 8% by 2020.
Offshore wind capacity accounts for almost 1,170 megawatts worldwide, roughly 1.2% of the 94,100 megawatts of installed capacity at the end of 2007; while this is a small share of the total, it is up from less than 0.3% in 2000. Denmark maintained its leadership position, with 426 megawatts of installed offshore wind power capacity, followed by the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland. With more than 1,200 megawatts presently under construction worldwide, primarily in Europe, offshore wind capacity is expected to more than double by the end of 2009.
The cost of onshore wind power has decreased by more than 80% since the early 1980s to roughly 7¢ per kilowatt-hour at favorable wind sites.
If the full cost of carbon emissions were incorporated into the price of natural gas and coal, onshore wind would become the cheapest electricity source.
With mounting concerns over global climate change and energy security, wind energy is rapidly taking center stage in the new energy economy. Unlike conventional energy sources, electricity generation from wind does not release greenhouse gases associated with global warming. Wind also offers long-term energy security, since it is inexhaustible, widely distributed, and free. If the present 27% annual growth rate of installed wind power capacity is maintained, total capacity in 2020 will hit 2 million megawatts. With aggressive economic incentives, it could reach 3 million megawatts by that date—which would be 30 times as much as is available today.
Jonathan G. Dorn
Copyright © 2008 Earth Policy Institute
March 4, 2008
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