Global wind power up by a quarter in 2006

Posted: 25 July 2007

The 15,200 megawatts of new wind turbines installed worldwide in 2006 will generate enough clean electricity annually to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 23 average-sized US coal-fired power plants, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute.

Wind generating capacity 2006
Wind generating capacity 2006

The 43 million tons of carbon dioxide displaced in 2006 is equivalent to the emissions of 7,200 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, or nearly 8 million passenger cars.

Global wind power capacity increased almost 26 per cent in 2006, exceeding 74,200 megawatts by year's end. Global investment in wind power was roughly $22 billion in 2006, and in Europe and North America, the power industry added more capacity in wind than it did in coal and nuclear combined. The global market for wind equipment has risen 74 per cent in the past two years, leading to long backorders for wind turbine equipment in much of the world.

"Wind power is on track to soon play a major role in reducing fossil fuel dependence and slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," according to Worldwatch Senior Researcher Janet Sawin.

"Already, the 43 million tons of carbon dioxide displaced by the new wind plants installed last year equalled more than 5 per cent of the year's growth in global emissions. If the wind market quadruples over the next nine years - a highly plausible scenario - wind power could be reducing global emissions growth by 20 per cent in 2015." Today, Germany, Spain, and the United States generate nearly 60 per cent of the world's wind power. But the industry is shifting quickly from its European and North American roots to a new centre of gravity in the booming energy markets of Asia.

Wind turbines on  Xiao Qing Dao island, China.
Wind turbines on Xiao Qing Dao island, China.
The State Power Corporation of China, with the help of the US Department of Energy, developed a pilot project using a wind/diesel/battery system to electrify 120 households on Xiao Qing Dao island. Photo © Jerry Bianchi/NREL
In 2006, India was the third largest wind turbine installer and China took the fifth spot, thanks to a 170-per cent increase in new wind power installations over the previous year. More than 50 nations now tap the wind to produce electricity, and 13 have more than 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity installed.

As efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions accelerate around the globe, dozens of countries are working to add or strengthen laws that support the development of wind power and other forms of renewable energy. Rapid growth is expected in the next few years in several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Portugal.

"China and the United States will compete for leadership of the global wind industry in the years ahead," says Sawin. "Although the US industry got a 20-year head start, the Chinese are gaining ground rapidly. Whichever nation wins, it is encouraging to see the world's top two coal burners fighting for the top spot in wind energy."

Source: Worldwatch Institute