A rush to start construction before expiration of the U.S. wind energy production tax credit (PTC), and record growth in Europe fueled new global wind energy capacity nearly 19 percent higher in 2012, making up for slower growth in China and India. Adding 15.75 gigawatts (GW) of new nameplate wind power capacity – 13.2 GW in China – the Asia region continued to lead the world in new wind power installations nonetheless, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
Looming expiration of the wind energy PTC in the U.S. led a rush by project developers to install wind turbines as quickly as possible, though a last-minute compromise led to Congress extending the PTC through 2013. More than 8,000 megawatts (MW) of new nameplate wind power capacity was installed during 2012’s fourth quarter in the U.S. alone, bringing the annual tally to 13,124 MW, according to GWEC’s Global Wind Power Statistics 2012, which was released on February 11.
Wind Power 2012: Exceptionally strong years in Europe, the U.S.
New wind power capacity also rose strongly in Europe, reaching a new record 12.4 GW of newly installed capacity. Germany and the U.K. led the way, while strong gains were also registered in Europe’s “emerging markets,” including Sweden, Romania, Italy and Poland.
“While China paused for breath, both the U.S. and European markets had exceptionally strong years,” GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer, was quoted in a GWEC press release. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind.”
Europe far outpaced all other regions when it came to new offshore wind power capacity, accounting for more than 90 percent of the global total – 1,166 MW of a worldwide total 1,293 MW. The persisting sovereign debt crisis clouds the outlook for growth in 2013, though “Europe’s framework legislation and its 2020 targets ensure a degree of stability,” the GWEC notes in its report.
New wind power capacity growth was much more restrained, though still positive, in Latin America, the Pacific and Middle East-North Africa (MENA) and sub-Saharan Africa regions, the GWEC reported.
Brazil’s 1,077 MW of new wind power capacity dwarfed that of other Latin American countries, while Australia accounted for all the 358 MW of new capacity installed in the Pacific region.
Tunisia was the only country in the MENA region to add to new wind power capacity, bringing a 50 MW wind project online. Ethiopia’s home to the first large-scale commercial wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, a 52 MW wind farm.
“This is just the beginning of the African market,” Sawyer commented, “and with construction started on 500+ MW in South Africa, we expect Africa to be a substantial new market, where clean, competitive energy generated with indigenous sources is a priority for economic development.”