With the technical potential for wind energy production globally being 278,000 TWh (Terawatt hours) per year and assuming sufficient investor support and government backing such as appropriate feed in tariffs, the wind energy sector is gearing up for massive growth in the years ahead.
Wind energy is now being deployed in over 70 countries. Since the 1980’s, wind generators in the largest turbines have increased in capacity by 100 times and rotor diameters have increased eight-fold. The average capacity of wind turbines installed globally during 2007 was 1,492 kilowatts and the biggest turbine currently in operation is the German-made 6 megawatt Enercon E126, with a rotor diameter of 126 metres.
According to a recent joint report from Greenpeace International and the Global Wind Energy Council entitled “Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008”, more wind power was brought online in Europe in 2007 than any other non-renewable or renewable energy technology, accounting for 40% of all new power generation capacity.
Wind power also made up 30% of all new generation capacity installed in the USA during that same timeframe. The USA commissioned a record 5,244 MW of wind power during 2007, double the 2006 level. With Barack Obama as the new US president, the wind industry there can expect to benefit from his promised investment of $150 billion over the next 10 years on clean energy.
China is the currently the world’s fastest growing wind energy market and is expected to become the largest manufacturer of wind turbines and other related equipment by the end of this year.
India achieved in excess of 1,500 megawatts of new installed wind capacity in 2007, reaching a total of 7,845 megawatts; which represents growth of 25% over the previous year. The Indian government estimates a yearly capacity addition of up to 2,000 megawatts in years to come.
In regards to Australia, the report states the country has some of the best wind resources in the world. Total online wind capacity at the end of 2007 was 824 MW. Given the Australian government’s commitment to an MRET (Mandatory Renewable Energy Target) of 20% by 2020 and 10,000 MW of new renewable energy projects needing to be commissioned over the next ten years to meet this goal, the local wind industry will play a major role.
Looking ahead, the report states wind power could potentially generate 12% of the world’s energy requirements and save 10 billion tones of CO2 within 12 years; playing a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The “Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008” report can be downloaded here (PDF)