Wind energy experienced dramatic growth over the last decade

Wind power experienced dramatic growth over the last decade. Global installed wind farm capacity at the end of 2010 was around 197 GW. Nearly 36 GW were added in 2010 alone. Clean Energy Ministerial countries accounted for over 90% of total installed wind turbines capacity in 2010, corresponding to some 175 GW.

Over the last couple of years wind energy’s centre of growth moved from Europe and North America to Asia, which emerged as the global leader. In the year 2010, China added roughly 19 GW of wind farm capacity and became the global leader in terms of installed capacity. While China is at present very fast in building new wind capacity there is a lag of several months in connecting this capacity to the grid.

As a result, a relatively low capacity factor is seen in China. While China’s wind power growth has been impressively rapid, wind turbines only provides just 1% of total electricity output in China.

Contributing to the large Asian growth, India added over 2 GW of new wind power in the 2010. Growth in Europe and North America has slowed somewhat, the result of the economic downturn, which resulted in reduced access to financing. In addition, rising materials costs and wind turbines and component shortages have contributed to rising wind energy costs.

In the United States these effects were amplified by the weak dollar. Offshore wind farm developments were concentrated mostly in Europe, where 883 MW were installed in the year 2010, bringing the total installed capacity to roughly 3 GW.

A number of recent important policy measures and programmes have emerged in support of expanded wind energy markets. Many of the new policy developments concern offshore wind farm:

Offshore wind power is now a Chinese priority with the publication of its Offshore Wind Development Plan in 2009 and with the establishment of a new FIT. The official target for wind farm deployment was increased to 150 GW.

The United Kingdom emphasised onshore and offshore wind power in its National Renewable Energy Action Plan, with funding allocated by the newly created Green Investment Bank. Up to 33 GW of offshore renewable generation is targeted via a maximum of GBP 15 billion invested in offshore infrastructures.

In the United States, the USD 1 billion Cape Wind turbines project, the country’s first offshore wind farm, was successfully approved by the Department of Interior. The Department of Energy is currently reviewing the loan guarantee application. In December 2010, the DOE also finalised a deal for the Caithness Shepherds Flat project, the world’s largest wind farm project to date, by providing a partial loan guarantee of USD 1.3 billion for the 845 MW facility located in eastern Oregon.

Spain continues its focus on onshore wind energy deployment, issuing a new FIT in December 2010 for new wind power capacity to 2012.

The European Union launched a 10]year European Wind Initiative that will provide EUR 6 billion in partnership with industry to advance wind RD&D.