Even in the face of a worldwide economic downturn, the global wind industry posted another record year in 2009 as cumulative installed wind power capacity grew to 158,000 megawatts. With this 31 percent jump, the global wind fleet is now large enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 250 million people. Wind provides electricity in over 70 countries, 17 of which now have at least 1,000 megawatts installed.
China led the way in 2009 with an astonishing 13,000 megawatts of new wind capacity, the first time any country has built more than 10,000 megawatts in a single year. With 25,000 megawatts overall, China has doubled its total installed wind capacity in each of the last five years, bringing it into third place behind the United States and Germany. . . And considering the ambitious projects already in its development pipeline, it is not likely to stay in third place for long.
China’s unprecedented Wind Base program helps explain why. Six wind- rich provinces across the country’s northern half — from northwestern Xinjiang to eastern Jiangsu — have been selected to host seven wind mega- complexes of between 10,000 and 37,000 megawatts each. When complete, these “wind bases” will boast close to 130,000 megawatts of generating capacity, which is more than the entire world had at the end of 2008. Amendments to China’s landmark Renewable Energy Law of 2006, due to take effect this month, aim to support this ambitious wind growth. Government agencies have been directed to determine and enforce the share of total electricity generation that must come from renewable sources, not unlike the renewable portfolio standards adopted by 29 U.S. states. The amendments will also provide for badly needed transmission lines and grid upgrades.
U.S. Posts Large Gains
The United States passed longtime leader Germany in installed capacity in 2008 and then widened its lead in 2009, expanding its wind fleet by nearly 10,000 megawatts to reach a cumulative 35,000 megawatts. Texas remained the leading state in both annual and total wind installations, reaching 9,400 megawatts overall. And while Iowa is a distant second, with 3,700 megawatts of total wind capacity, at least 17 percent of its electricity generation comes from wind.
As the financial crisis tightened credit and suppressed investment in early 2009, the U.S. wind industry was bracing for a steep drop in installations from 2008’s record 8,400 megawatts. But due in large part to wind-friendly provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more than 100 new wind farms came online in 28 states, in what was the strongest year yet for U.S. wind construction.