Wind energy will grow by 100 terawatt-hours per year – IEA

Wind power will be the second biggest contributor to global renewable electricity generation by 2017, according to a ground-breaking report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Despite economic uncertainties in many countries, global power generation from renewable sources including wind turbines will increase by more than 40% to almost 6,400 terawatt hours (TWh) – roughly the equivalent of one-and-a-half times current electricity production in the US, predicts the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2012.

This is the first time the IEA has devoted a medium-term report to renewable power sources and the agency says this is “a recognition of the dynamic and increasing role of renewable energy in the global power mix”. It forecasts that renewable electricity generation will expand by 1,840 TWh between 2011 and 2017, almost 60% above the 1 160 TWh growth registered between 2005 and 2011.

By 2017, wind energy (onshore and offshore wind farm) should make the largest contribution to global renewable electricity generation after hydro at 16.7%. Between 2011 and 2017, wind power should grow on average by 100 TWh per year – an increase of 15.6%, says the IEA. Onshore wind power will account for 90% of this growth, as its capacity rises from 230 GW to over 460 GW.

“Onshore wind has emerged as a mature technology, which is increasingly competitive with conventional alternatives,” comments the IEA. “The current availability of global manufacturing capacity combined with the maturity of the manufacturing industry suggests that supply-side availability should not act as a deployment bottleneck.”

China will lead capacity growth in onshore wind, says the IEA, adding 104 GW between 2011 and 2017. The US, despite uncertainty over the durability of a federal production tax credit, should add 27 GW over this period, while India is predicted to increase capacity by 17 GW, Brazil by 8 GW and the UK by 7 GW.

“As a more nascent technology, offshore wind faces larger deployment challenges,” states the report. But the IEA nonetheless believes that capacity in this sector should increase significantly from 4 GW in 2011 to 26 GW in 2017, “supported by generous incentives from governments committed to offshore development”.

The IEA forecasts that offshore capacity growth will be led by China with a rise of 6.7 GW, the UK with an increase of 5.3 GW, Germany with additional capacity of 3.8 GW and France with an increase of 1.5 GW.

This optimism sits well with the newly released figures from EWEA that show 132 new offshore wind turbines, totalling 523.2 megawatts (MW), were fully grid connected in Europe in the first six months of 2012 – a 50% increase compared to the same period in 2011 when 348.1 MW were installed.

“Renewable energy is expanding rapidly as technologies mature, with deployment transitioning from support-driven markets to new and potentially more competitive segments in many countries,” enthuses  IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

To read the most up-to-date figures for offshore capacity in Europe, see the European WInd Energy Association’s publication – The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 1st half 2012.

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