Wind power installations up 29 per cent in 2008

Posted: 8 May 2009

Global wind capacity increased an estimated 27,051 megawatts in 2008, ending the year at 120,798 megawatts. The United States led in new installations, surpassing Germany to rank first in wind energy cumulative capacity and electricity generation.

Annual wind capacity addition
Annual wind capacity addition
Source: Worldwatch Institute
With cumulative installations up almost 29 per cent, the growth rate exceeded the annual average of the past decade. Wind power accounted for 42 percent of new capacity additions in the United States (second only to natural gas for the fourth year running) and for 36 percent of new installations in Europe. The wind now generates more than 1.5 percent of the world's electricity, up from 0.1 percent in 1997. Around the world, 80 countries are now using wind power on a commercial basis.

A new snapshot of wind energy trends from Worldwatch Institute analyss data since 1980 and reveals that:

  • For the first time last year, wind power represented Europe's leading source of new electric capacity (with 8,877 megawatts added), well ahead of natural gas at 6,939 MW and coal at 763 MW. By the end of 2008, wind power accounted for 8 per cent of EU power capacity, enough to generate 4.2 per cent of the region's electricity in a normal wind year.
  • Asia accounted for almost one-third of global wind capacity, with China quickly surpassing its 2010 wind target of 10,000 MW and ending 2008 with 12,200 MW in place. India ranked third in wind capacity additions in 2008, with 1,800 megawatts of new wind added, and is now fifth worldwide for cumulative capacity - after the United States, Germany, Spain, and China - with a total of 9,645 megawatts.
  • Spain placed fourth worldwide for new installations in 2008, adding 1,609 megawatts. With a total of approximately 16,740 megawatts, Spain now ranks third after the United States and Germany for cumulative wind power capacity. Wind power provided more than 11 per cent of Spain's electricity last year and, according to Spanish utility Endesa, drove down electricity prices during 2008. Other major European players in 2008 included Italy (1,010 megawatts added), France (950), the United Kingdom (836), and Portugal (712).
  • Nearly 400,000 people are employed by the wind industry worldwide, though this number could slide in the near term due to project financing difficulties, particularly in the United States. However, the economic crisis has resulted in cheaper material and construction costs that are expected to lower turbine prices, a potential boon for long-term installation projections.

Wind capacity additions, countries
Wind capacity additions, countries
Source: Worldwatch Institute
  • Most of the world's wind capacity is operating onshore, but a growing share is spinning offshore; the vast majority of these installations are in Europe. Nine EU countries had operational offshore wind farms at the end of 2008, up from five at the beginning of the year. An estimated 357 megawatts were added last year, for a total of 1,486 megawatts offshore in Europe. More than 30,822 megawatts of offshore capacity are under construction or in the planning stages in Europe, with completion expected by 2015.

  • The global market for wind turbine installations in 2008 was worth about $47.5 billion, an increase of approximately 42 per cent over 2007. Globally, more than 400,000 people are employed in the wind industry. But a significant number of jobs could be lost, particularly in the United States, due to project financing difficulties brought about by the global economic crisis. By early 2009, financing for new projects and orders for turbines and components had slowed significantly.
This new wind power update provides data since 1980 on global and national cumulative capacity in the top wind-producing countries and sheds light on key financial trends in the sector.