European wind energy continued its surging success By Chris Rose

Despite the worst recession in more than 65 years, the continued growth of wind power last year sparked such a bright light for the vitally important European energy portfolio that it can only be described as phenomenal.

Data compiled by EWEA and other sources shows that wind power installations accounted for a staggering 39% of new electricity-generating capacity in 2009. By way of comparison, wind’s share of newly installed capacity a year earlier increased 35%.

The 10,163 MW of EU wind power capacity installed last year represents a 23% increase over 2008. It is also the second year in a row that more wind energy was installed in the EU than any other generating technology.

Wind power’s future continued to glow brightly on a number of other fronts. The wind capacity installed by the end of 2009 will in a normal year produce 163 TWh of electricity, meeting 4.8% of total EU power demand. According to the latest figure from Eurostat, final electricity consumption in the EU-27 was 3,372 TWh in 2007.

Not surprisingly, most of the new wind power capacity (9,581 MW) was realised through onshore wind farm installations while the remainder (582 MW) was derived from new offshore facilities. The onshore increase was 21% greater than 2008’s while the new offshore wind farm installations jumped 56% compared to new installations the previous year.

The EWEA annual statistics also showed that EU wind power, though buffeted by exceedingly fragile money markets trying to ride out the severe economic downturn, still saw investments of €13 billion in wind farms in 2009, including €1.5 billion in the nascent offshore sector.

“This is a great result in a year that was far from easy,” said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive. “The figures confirm that wind power, together with other renewable energy technologies and a shift from coal to gas, is delivering massive European carbon reductions, while creating much needed economic activity and new jobs for Europe’s citizens.”

After wind turbines, of all new EU electricity generating capacity installed last year in addition, 25% or 6,630 MW came from gas while 17% or 4,600 MW was from solar photovoltaics. In addition, 2,406 MW (9%) of new coal was installed, 581 MW (2.2%) of biomass, 573 MW (2.2%) of fuel oil, 442 MW (1.7%) of waste, 439 MW (1.7%) of nuclear, 338 MW (1.3%) of large hydro, 120 MW (0.46%) of concentrating solar power, 55 MW (0.2%) of small hydro, 12 MW (0.04%) of other gas, 3.9 MW (0.01%) of geothermal, and 405 kW of ocean power.

Together, renewable energy technologies accounted for 62% of new European power-generating capacity in 2009, marking the second year in a row that renewable energies have accounted for the majority of new installations.

The EWEA report indicates that each year since 2008 renewable electricity generating technologies have accounted for more than 50% of new power installations – mostly wind power, but also solar PV, hydro power, and biomass.

This trend has increased from just 14% of new installations in 1995, to the 61% last year. The data reveals that the power sector in Europe is still moving away from coal, fuel oil and nuclear, as each of those power technologies continued decommissioning inefficient plants. For example, the coal sector decommissioned 3,200 MW, the nuclear sector decommissioned 1,393 MW, and the fuel oil sector decommissioned 472 MW.

In all, the EU’s total installed power capacity increased last year 20,150 MW, to 820,606 MW, with wind power increasing its share of installed capacity to 74,767 MW (9.1%), up from 64,719 MW by the end of 2008.

Additionally, the data shows that annual installations of wind power have increased steadily over the last 15 years from 472 MW in 1994 to the 10,163 MW in 2009, an annual average market growth of 23%.

Overall, the statistics show that Germany remains the EU country with the largest total of installed capacity at 25,777 MW, followed by Spain (19,149 MW), Italy (4,850 MW), France (4,492 MW), and the UK (4,051 MW).

Yet the nations with largest share of new capacity installed in 2009 were Spain (24% or 2,459 MW), followed by Germany (19% or 1,917 MW), Italy (11% or 1,114 MW), France (11% or 1,088 MW) and the UK (10% or 1,077 MW).

While Europe’s wind energy installations last year continued to be dominated by development in its mature markets, it is worth noting that Portugal (7% of new installations or 673 MW), Sweden (5% or 512 MW), Denmark (3% or 334 MW), and Ireland (2% or 233 MW) also performed strongly.

New power installations last year continued the trend in changes in EU net installed capacity for the various electricity generating technologies from 2000 to 2009. The net growth of natural gas (81 GW) and wind power (65.1 GW) came about at the expense of fuel oil (down 12.9 GW), coal (down 12 GW) and nuclear power (down 7.2 GW).

Jacopo Moccia, who compiles EWEA statistics, said there were several reasons that wind power did so well in the EU last year despite the ongoing economic downturn. “Wind power is a proven technology,” Moccia said. “Furthermore it is clean, has short lead times and no fluctuating fuel costs. If you add to that the strong political support for renewables in the EU, it is clearly seen as a safe investment with good potential returns. It is the ideal investment to ride through a crisis.”

An EWEA regulatory affairs advisor, Moccia said that offshore wind, although still smaller in terms of onshore installations, had a very good year in 2009 and should expect an even better future. “Offshore has started taking off as an industry in and of itself, and it should
no longer been seen as an extension of onshore wind. Over the past years many countries, especially around the North Sea, have been laying the foundations for offshore wind farm development via ambitious policies,” he said.

“We are now beginning to reap what has been sown, and forecasts for next year and beyond are even more exciting. We should expect offshore to keep growing at high rates, until by the second half of the 2020s the offshore industry should become bigger than the onshore one.”

He also said the €13 billion in EU wind farm investments last year demonstrate how wind energy is an ideal industry to re-launch Europe’s growth. “Wind is bringing in investments and creating jobs whilst helping us to meet the energy and climate crises we face that could, in the future, cause Europe even greater fi nancial woes than those we are living today.”

Moccia, who described wind power as the power technology of choice, was asked why EU wind saw the largest growth of all generating technologies for the second year in a row, and what that accomplishment says about the old, more traditional energy technologies such as coal and oil.

“Today’s energy mix is the result of technologies developed in the past. These technologies are not suited for the socio-economic and environmental challenges we are facing. This year 61% of all new electricity generating capacity was renewable, up from just 14% in 1995. We can truly talk of the de-carbonisation of Europe’s energy mix, which also augurs well for Europe’s future energy independence.”

He also said that the continuing success of wind power can help policy makers working towards promoting emissions free technologies and agreeing on a new and strengthened post-Kyoto pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.

“Today, wind turbines produce almost 5% of the EU’s electricity. By 2020 we expect them to meet up to 17% — the equivalent of 131 million average EU households and avoiding 333 million tonnes of CO2 annually. By 2030, wind energy could be meeting up to 35% of the EU’s electricity needs, equivalent to 241 million households and avoiding 600 million tonnes of CO2 annually. I think these fi gures speak for themselves.”

By Chris Rose,