On Tuesday the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) released statistics that claim a total of over 41 gigawatts of new wind power were installed around the world in 2011. This represents an increase of 21% to a global capacity of 238 gigawatts. 75 countries can now boast wind power installations, with 22 countries having more than 1000 megawatts (1 gigawatt).
Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General, said that “Despite the state of the global economy, wind power continues to be the renewable generation technology of choice. 2011 was a tough year, as will be 2012, but the long term fundamentals of the industry remain very sound. For the second year running, the majority of new installations were outside the OECD, and new markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia are driving market growth.”
The European Union led the way with 9,616 megawatts of wind power installations bringing its capacity to an impressive 94 gigawatts. Which, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), is enough to power 6.3% of the EU`s electricity demand.
China remains the country with the largest wind energy capacity with 62 gigawatts. Li Junfeng, Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA), stated that “2011 was not an easy year for the Chinese wind industry,” but that, “in the coming year, the industry will adapt to the government’s new requirements as well as those of the market.”
The United States suffered a difficult 2010 for wind power, but recovered admirably in 2011 with the installation of more than 6,800 megawatts. Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced that, “We have installed more than a third of all new American electric generation in recent years and are well on our way to providing 20% of America’s electricity by 2030 as projected by the Bush Administration.”
India installed more than 3000 megawatts of wind power in 2011, pushing their overall capacity to just over 16 gigawatts. “Ongoing initiatives of the Indian government to create new policies will attract large quantities of private investments to the sector,” said D.V. Giri, Chairman of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association.
Canada enjoyed a record year in which they surpassed the 5 gigawatt milestone. Chris Forrest, Vice-President of Communications & Marketing for the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CWEA), said that, “As Canada continues to renew its electricity generation resources, wind energy will play an ever-increasing part in delivering reliable, economic and clean electricity.”
Latin America, led by Brazil, is developing into a strong market for wind power, and experienced another good year in 2011, installing 1,200 megawatts. “Brazil reached the 1 GW milestone during 2011, and has a pipeline of more than 7,000 MW to be completed before the end of 2016,” said Pedro Perrelli, Executive Director of the Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEOLICA).
So wind power does indeed seem to be a popular energy source around the world receiving plenty of investment. However, Steve Sawyer also states that, “at the end of the day we will be hard pressed to keep the industry’s growth up to its potential without a global price on carbon and other measures to account for the real costs to society of conventional power generation.”
It would be a huge shame and a damning blow to the environment, and the health of society in the future, if the wind sector does not live up to the potential that it is showing at the moment, and instead fell into decline due to a lack of legislation imposed on the cheaper, high carbon emitting energy sources.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com