Global survey finds wind energy's explosive expansion continuing

Industry added enough generation in 2000 to supply 1.3 million California households.

provided by American Wind Energy Association

he worldwide boom in wind energy slowed a bit during the year 2000, but still remained strong, with some 3,500 megawatts (MW) being installed, or enough to supply roughly 1.3 million California households with 3.5 million people, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

    The slightly slower rate of growth worldwide in 2000 (an increase of 26% in total capacity for the year versus a 37% jump in 1999) was largely due to a temporary dip in the US market, the trade group said in releasing its annual report on global market trends. In the United States, only 53 MW was installed, compared to 732 MW in 1999.

    “It's ironic that at a time when California and much of the West is reeling from a shortage in electric generation capacity, the growth of one of the most promising and economical new electricity sources has been hampered by on-again, off-again federal government policies,” commented AWEA executive director Randall Swisher.

    “The US came within a whisker of letting its federal support mechanism for wind the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) permanently expire in 1999,” Swisher explained. “The credit actually did expire for a few months in 1999 before being retroactively extended, and as a result, the domestic market for wind in 2000 almost completely dried up.”

    The PTC (a credit of 1.5 cents, adjusted for inflation, per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by a new wind plant during the first 10 years it operates) will expire again at the end of this year unless it is extended by Congress. In the meantime, AWEA expects a banner year for wind, with as much as 2,000 MW of new capacity being installed in the United States alone and global totals also surging as a result.

    “We are in the boom year of the boom-and-bust cycle that Congress ordained when it provided only a 2.5-year extension of the PTC,” Swisher said. “It will be fun while it lasts, but it's a long way from the kind of sustained, orderly development that this industry needs to become a major contributor to California, and United States, electricity supply.” Congress, he added, urgently needs to act on several bills now pending that would extend the incentive for five or 10 years or permanently.

    The steady growth of wind energy in Europe over the past decade, AWEA said, provides a striking contrast to what has happened in the United States: “Growth in the European wind energy market has been so strong and steady that the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has raised its goal for the region by 50%, from 40,000 MW of installed capacity by 2010 to 60,000 MW.” Sixty-thousand megawatts of wind capacity would be enough to provide more than two-thirds of California's entire electricity demand.

    During 2000, European countries installed 3,200 MW of new wind generation, AWEA said, or about 90% of what was installed worldwide. More than half of that new growth (1,668 MW) was installed in Germany, which remains the world's leader with 6,113 MW of total wind capacity. The United States ranks second in total installed capacity at 2,554 MW, but Spain, which added 775 MW in 2000, is a strong third at 2,250 MW.

    Rounding out the top 10, according to AWEA, are Denmark (2,140 MW), India (1,167 MW), the Netherlands (449 MW), Italy (420 MW), the United Kingdom (400 MW), China (265 MW), and Sweden (226 MW).

    The largest additions in 2000, besides those in Germany and Spain, were made in Denmark (400 MW) and Italy (170 MW). AWEA said it expects to see strong growth continue in Germany and Denmark, both of which are planning large offshore wind development, and Spain: “With steady growth in Europe, a bull market underway in the United States, and a string of projects under development in several other countries, the global outlook for wind in 2001 is very bright. Additions to installed capacity in 2001 are likely to top 5,000 MW and push [the worldwide total] to well past the 20,000 mark.”

    AWEA, formed in 1974, is the national trade association of the US wind energy industry. The association's membership of more than 700 includes turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals from 49 states. More information on wind energy is available from the home page of the AWEA web site: 2000 by the American Wind Energy Association.