Global Wind Power Generated Record Year in 2006
Booming wind energy markets around the world exceeded expectations in 2006, with the sector experiencing a second consecutive record year.
Covering wind energy developments in more than 70 countries, figures released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) show the installation of 15,197 megawatts last year, an increase of 32 percent over 2005–another record year in which the market grew by 41 percent.
These installations take the total global wind energy capacity to 74,223 megawatts, up from 59,091 megawatts in 2005.
A megawatt of wind produces about as much electricity as 300 typical North American households use in a year, according to American wind power developer enXco.
The GWEC said this level of development shows that the global wind energy industry is responding quickly to the challenge of manufacturing at the required level, despite constraints facing supply chains for wind turbines.
In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has now become firmly installed as one of the important players in the energy markets, with the total value of new generating equipment installed in 2006 reaching US$23 billion.
The country with the highest total installed capacity is Germany with 20,621 megawatts.
Spain and the United States are in second and third place respectively, each with over 11,603 megawatts installed.
India is in fourth place with 6,270 megawatts total, and Denmark ranks fifth with 3,136 megawatts installed.
In terms of newly installed capacity, the U.S. continues to lead the world for the second year running with 2,454 megawatts installed in 2006.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, the exponential growth in wind capacity reflects the U.S.’ increasing demand for clean, safe, and domestic energy, and continues to attract both private and public sources of capital. The association says that generating capacity worth US$4 billion was installed in 2006, billing wind as one of the largest sources of new power generation in the country–second only to natural gas–for the second year in a row.
The European Wind Energy Association notes that Germany and Spain still represent 50 percent of the EU market. However, 3,755 megawatts were installed outside Germany, Spain, and Denmark in 2006, confirming that a second wave of European countries is investing in wind power.
Thirteen countries now can be counted among those with over 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity, with Canada and France reaching this threshold in 2006.
Within the EU, France moved up to third place in 2006 from sixth place in 2005, with 810 megawatts installed during the year–more capacity than had previously been commissioned in the entire history of the French wind market.
Canada also had a record year, with the installed capacity more than doubling to 1,459 megawatts during 2006. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Canada’s provincial governments are now targeting to have a minimum of 10,000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity in place by 2015.
Asia experienced the strongest increase in installed capacity outside Europe, with an addition of 3,679 megawatts, taking the continent over 10,600 megawatts, about half that of Germany. In 2006, the continent grew by 53 percent and accounted for 24 percent of new installations.
China more than doubled its total installed capacity by installing 1,347 megawatts of wind energy in 2006, a 70 percent increase over 2005. This brings China up to 2,604 megawatts of capacity, making it the sixth largest market worldwide.
The Chinese market was boosted by the country’s new Renewable Energy Law, which took effect January 1, 2006. The Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association says that approved projects and those under construction mean that more than 1,500 megawatts will be installed in China in 2007. The goal for wind power in China by the end of 2010 is 5,000 megawatts.
Growth in the relatively young African and Middle Eastern market picked up in 2006, with 172 megawatts of new installed capacity–mainly in Egypt, Morocco, and Iran–bringing the total up to 441 megawatts, a 63 percent growth.
Compared to previous years, the Australian market experienced slow growth in 2006. Only 109 megawatts were installed in 2006, bringing total capacity to 817 megawatts. However, the Australian Wind Energy Association says that the Australian market has been given state-based renewable energy targets that provide a more positive outlook for 2007.