In 2021, the wind energy sector installed 93 GW of capacity
China was in the lead, even though the 47 GW added was considerably less than the previous year. The United States followed, with 14 GW, about the same as in 2020. Other leading installers were Brazil, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Türkiye, Germany, India and France.
Record offshore wind additions of 21.3 GW were achieved despite continued COVID-19 impacts and strains on supply chains. They could not compensate for the lower rate (71.8 GW) of onshore installations, however.
China installed more than 80% of new offshore wind power capacity, driven by an impending phaseout of feed-in tariff subsidies for grid-connected projects. Just three Chinese companies accounted for 57.5% of global wind installations.
The wind industry’s trend towards growing consolidation continued in 2021, when the top ten manufacturers accounted for 85% of the global installation market. Just five companies – Vestas, Goldwind, GE, Envision and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) – controlled more than half the market volume.
Chinese firms continued to service primarily their domestic market. GE derived two-thirds of its business from US customers. Vestas and SGRE are present in more than 30 countries and can rely on a mature global supply chain.
Global employment in onshore and offshore wind grew to 1.4 million jobs in 2021, up from 1.25 million in 2020. Most wind employment is concentrated in a relatively small number of countries. China alone accounted for 48% of the global total. Asia represented 57%, Europe 25%, the Americas 16%, and Africa and Oceania 2%. The top ten countries together employed 1.16 million people. Four are in Europe, four in Asia and two in the Americas.
Based on industry experience, the Global Wind Energy Council assessed wind deployment pathways under a “green recovery scenario”, underlining the job potential
in five developing countries. The study estimated that wind power installations between 2022 and 2026 and O&M during project lifetime would create some 230 000 direct and indirect full-time equivalent job years in India, 115 000 in Brazil, 59 000 in the Philippines, 37 000 in South Africa and 29 000 in Mexico.
Wind farms increasingly create construction and installation jobs around the world. The locations of equipment manufacturing jobs are more limited. Denmark and Germany are two leading wind turbines producers and exporters. Together with the Netherlands and Spain, they accounted for more than three-quarters of global exports in 2020.
Chinese firms still focus primarily on their home market, but the country’s share of global exports rose from 7.5% in 2017 to 13.8% in 2020. By contrast, some leading installers such as the United States and the United Kingdom import many turbine components, limiting the extent of domestic manufacturing jobs.
Offshore wind farms require more labour than onshore installations, because construction and installation activities are more complex and wind farms require complex foundations, substations, undersea cables
and installation vessels that are not needed onshore.
Europe is the leader in offshore installations and technology development, but other countries, such as China, are rapidly developing their own capabilities and undertaking improvements in port infrastructure.