Wind market forecast predicts fair breeze ahead


This article is part of our special report Wind Energy.

A new five-year industry forecast has predicted a pick up in the wind energy market, with more than 40 GW of new capacity being added in 2011.

By 2015, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)'s annual report expects globally installed wind power capacity to have more than doubled to 450 GW from 194.4 GW at the end of 2010.

The 'Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update 2010' assumes an average growth rate of 18.2% per year for wind, compared to 28% cumulative capacity growth over the last decade.

By 2015, annual market additions are expected to reach 60.5 GW, up from 35.8 GW in 2010.

"2010 was a tough year also for our industry, but 2011 is looking up," GWEC Secretary-General Steve Sawyer said in a statement.

"We've paid the price for the 2008/9 financial crisis last year," he added. 2010 saw strong investments in wind power, which at the height of the recession rose 31% on 2009 to $96 billion, a record level.

The main driver of wind market growth is expected to remain China, which made up almost half of the global capacity additions (16.5 GW) last year.

China is expected to surpass the target outlined in its most recent five-year plan of installing 70 GW of new wind power in the next five years. With India's steady growth, GWEC expects a total capacity of 174.6 GW to be operational across Asia by the end of 2010.

Steve Sawyer acknowledged that China's rapid growth had caused Europe's wind sector some difficulties but was still upbeat about future prospects.

"On the one hand, exploiting and developing the new markets in Eastern Europe is one piece of what will allow Europe to get through this," he told EURACTIV. "But offshore is where Europe enjoys a very clear technological advantage."

More generally European companies are still market leaders, in Sawyer's eyes. "I don't see that changing in anything other than pure cost terms in the near future," he said.

In the GWEC report, Europe is expected to remain the world's second-largest wind market in the period to 2015, with capacity additions totalling 60 GW, bringing cumulative wind power installations up to 146.1 GW.

Large-scale offshore developments are expected to account for a growing share of the new wind capacity. But little new growth is expected in the North American market, as a result of legislative uncertainty in the US and Canada.

According to Nick Mabey, CEO of the E3G climate consultancy, Europe and Chinese investment in wind power is sending a clear message to the US that "you're behind and now you're going to fall further behind, and you're going to come back and buy our technology in ten years' time".

Optimistically though, GWEC expects a turnaround in the American market by 2014.


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