Global wind capacity set to rocket by 2012

The Global Wind Energy Council is forecasting that the global wind market will grow by more than 155% to reach 240GW (Gigawatts) of total installed capacity by 2012.

At 100% power output, this is the equivalent of almost four times the present 63GW nuclear power capacity in France and some 60% of the current global nuclear capacity, which stands at 370GW and accounts for 16% of total electricity generation.

In 2012, Europe will continue to host the largest wind energy capacity, with the total reaching 102GW, followed by Asia with 66GW and North America with 61.3GW.

Average growth rates in total installed capacity during this five-year period are expected to be 20.6%, compared with 24.7% during 2003-07.

The yearly additions in installed capacity are forecast to grow from 20GW in 2007 to 36.1GW in 2012, with an average annual market growth rate of 12.4%.

In its annual Global Wind Energy Report 2007, GWEC has adjusted its previous forecast to take into account the unexpectedly strong increase in wind energy deployment around the world. The report was presented at the European Wind Energy Conference (EWEC) in Brussels on April 1.

The council now forecasts an addition of 146GW in the coming five years, equalling an investment of more than 180billion euros ($277billion) at 2007 values.

But for supply-chain issues – there are chronic shortages of many critical components – the pace of growth could be even greater.

That said, GWEC warns that the large-scale development of offshore wind is further delayed and will only start to have a significant impact on European market growth towards the end of the period under consideration. However, it is expected that offshore development will lend new momentum to growth in Europe during the next decade.

The electricity produced by wind energy will, in 2012, reach more than 500 Terawatt hours (up from 200TWh in 2007), accounting for close to 3% of global electricity consumption (up from just over 1% in 2007).

However, Asia is predicted to overtake Europe as the biggest annual market, with as much as 12.5GW of new wind generating capacity installed during the year 2012, up from 5.4GW in 2007.

This growth will be mainly led by China, which has, since 2004, doubled its total capacity every year, consistently exceeding even the most optimistic predictions.

By 2010, China is expected to be the biggest national annual market globally. This development is underpinned by a rapidly growing number of domestic manufacturers in China. Already in 2007, 40 domestic suppliers supplied 56% of the new installations in the Chinese market, up from 41% in 2006.

Europe will, by 2012, have fallen to third place in terms of annual installations (10.3GW), just behind North America (10.5GW).

Overall, this means that more than 71% of new installations will occur outside of Europe in 2012, up from 28% in 2004 and 57% in 2007. While in terms of total installed capacity, Europe will continue to be the biggest regional market, its share will have fallen to 42.4%.

“The wind energy market continues to achieve tremendous growth rates and has now hit 20GW of new installations per year. As a result, we have had to revise even our most ambitious estimates,” said GWEC secretary general Steve Sawyer.

“The fastest areas of growth for the next five years will be North America and Asia, and more specifically the US and China.

The reasons for this adjustment are twofold: firstly, both the US and THE Chinese market have been growing and will continue to grow at a much faster rate than expected even a year ago.

Secondly, the emergence of significant manufacturing capacity in China will have a more important impact on the growth of the global markets.

“While tight production capacity is going to remain the main limiting factor of further market growth, machines ‘made in China’ will help take some of the strain out of the current supply situation.”

GWEC chairman Professor Arthouros Zervos said: “Considering that annual markets have been increasing by an average of more than 20% over the last five years, growth could be much stronger were it not for continuing supply-chain difficulties which considerably limit the growth of annual markets for the next two years.

“This problem should soon be overcome and, along with the development of the offshore market, growth rates are expected to recover in the next decade.”