Global Wind Power Growth Takes a Breather in 2010

Mark Konold | Jun 30, 2011

Global wind power capacity increased by 38,000 megawatts in 2010 to a total of 197,000 megawatts.1 (See Figure 1.) The global market grew by 24 percent, down from a 31-percent increase in 2009.2 But by now installed capacity is three times greater than it was in 2006 and nine times what it was a decade ago.3 The European Union had 43 percent of total installed capacity; in terms of individual nations, China and the United States lead the field at 23 and 20 percent, respectively.4 (See Figure 2.)

China overtook the United States in terms of total installed wind capacity in 2010, bringing its total to just under 45,000 megawatts. This is an increase of more than 70 percent from 2009, meaning the country maintained its leading position in terms of capacity additions.5 (See Figure 3.) In 2010 it connected just under 14,000 megawatts to the country’s grids, bringing total grid connectivity to about 31,000 megawatts.6 This means that 14,000 megawatts, or 31 percent of the country’s turbine potential, sits idle. China’s National Energy Bureau expects to bring total grid connectivity to 55,000 megawatts this year.7 The country continues to experience difficulties with long-distance transmission and the ability of some of its grids to absorb electricity from wind sources.8 According to analysts, this issue should abate in time with smart grid investments, but these problems are likely to persist in the near term.9 The State Grid Corporation of China has said that it plans to connect 90,000 megawatts of capacity to the grid by 2015.10 Of the country’s major wind power bases, Gansu Jiuquan province finished 2010 with about 5,000 megawatts installed, followed by Inner Mongolia East and Heibei at 4,211 and 4,160 megawatts, respectively.11 China’s next five-year plan, which begins in 2011, calls for an increase of 70 gigawatts by 2015.12

In 2010 the United States saw the slowest rate of growth in almost a decade, but it maintained its second-place position in the world in terms of installed capacity. The country finished the year with 40,180 megawatts of installed capacity, up from 35,159 megawatts in 2009.13 A lack of long-term predictable federal policies continues to fuel a boom-bust cycle in the United States.14 Texas remained the leading state, with 10,085 megawatts of installed capacity—up from 2009’s total of 9,403 megawatts.15 Iowa and California finished a distant second and third in 2010, with 3,675 and 3,177 megawatts, respectively.16 Wind met approximately 2 percent of U.S. electricity needs.17

Wind Power Figure 1

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