3 February 2009 - The USA has taken Germany's crown as the world's leader in wind power installations, reports the Global Wind Energy Association, and China's total capacity doubled for the fourth year in a row.
Global wind energy capacity grew by 28.8 per cent last year, higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total installations of more than 120.8 GW at the end of 2008. This represents in excess of 27 GW of new wind power generation capacity, an increase of 36 per on 2007.
According to Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the GWEC, the 120 GW of global wind capacity in place at the end of 2008 will produce 260 TWh and save 158 million tons of carbon dioxide every year."
Wind energy is now seen as an important player in the world's energy markets. The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was worth over €36bn ($47bn).
The leading markets in terms of new installed capacity in 2008 were the USA and China.
New US wind energy installations reached 8358 MW and with a total installed capacity of 25 170 MW the US has officially overtaken Germany (23 902 MW) as number one in wind power.
Europe and North America are running neck-to-neck, with about 8.9 GW each of new installed capacity in 2008, with Asia closely following with 8.6 GW.
The massive growth in the US wind market in 2008 increased the nation's total wind power generating capacity by 50 per cent. The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42 per cent of the entire new power generating capacity added last year, and created 35 000 new jobs.
At year's end, however, financing for new projects and new orders for turbines and components slowed to a trickle as the financial crisis began to hit the wind sector.
"The US wind energy industry turned in a record-shattering performance in 2008" said Denise Bode CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, but at the same time he acknowledged that "it is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development."
However, he added that: "We look forward to working with President Obama and the new Congress on policies to restore the industry's vital momentum and achieve the president's goal of doubling renewable energy production in three years."
The growth in Asia's markets has also been strong; close to a third of all new capacity last year was installed on the Asian continent. In particular, the wind energy boom is continuing in China, which once again doubled its installed capacity by adding about 6.3 GW, reaching a total of 12.2 GW.
In its response to the financial crisis, the Chinese government has identified the development of wind energy as one of the key economic growth areas.
"In 2009, new installed capacity is expected to nearly double again, which will be one third or more of the world's total new installed capacity for the year," said Li Junfeng, Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association.
If this rate continues China would be set to overtake Germany and Spain to reach second place in terms of total wind power capacity in 2010. China would then have met its 2020 target of 30 GW ten years ahead of time.
The growing wind power market in China has also encouraged domestic production of wind turbines and components, and the Chinese manufacturing industry is becoming increasingly mature, stretching over the whole supply chain.
"Now, the supply is starting to not only satisfy domestic demand, but also meet international needs, especially for components," said Li Junfeng.
"In 2009, Chinese companies will start to enter the UK and Japanese markets, and orders for 200 blades have already been placed. There are also ambitions for exploring the USA market in the coming years."
In Europe, almost 8.9.GW worth of new wind turbines brought total wind power generation capacity up to nearly 66 GW. This makes wind power the leading power source for new generation capacity, according to the European Wind Energy Association.
While in the past, European growth was primarily spurred by the established markets in Germany, Spain and Denmark, last year saw a much more balanced expansion, led by France, the UK and Italy.
"We're on track to meeting our target of saving 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2020", concluded Sawyer, "but we need a strong, global signal from governments that they are serious about moving away from fossil fuels and protecting the climate."
A positive outcome to the climate negotiations throughout this year, resulting in a new global agreement in Copenhagen in December, is of fundamental importance and will send the kind of signal that the industry, investors and the finance sector need for wind power to reach its full potential says the GWEC.