Asia has taken the lead as the wind power capital of the world as a surge in installation activity in China has led a recovery in the global wind energy sector.
In its half yearly report for 2014, the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) said the overall volume of global added capacity came in at 17613 megawatts (MW) in the six months to June – up from 13,978 and 16,376 in the first half of 2013 and 2012 respectively.
Developing nations led the way as installations surged 30 per cent in China and increased almost sixfold in Brazil, which has now emerged as the world’s 13th largest wind generation producing country.
Thanks largely to China and India, Asia has now overtaken Europe as the world’s leading continent for wind power and holds almost 37 per cent of the world’s generating capacity.
Over the past two and a half years alone, China has added almost as much capacity as third placed Germany has installed in total, while India has added almost 7,000 MW.
Growth in developed nations was patchy, however, with North American markets recovering from a slump and Germany growing amid ambitious renewable energy targets but markets in weak economies such as Italy and Spain adding virtually no new capacity.
Whilst Australia added a healthy 669 MW (up from 475 MW in the first half of 2013), the immediate outlook for the sector down under is doubtful amid the removal of the carbon tax and uncertainty over the future of the renewable energy target.
Not surprisingly, growth in construction of wind energy facilities throughout China is being driven by government efforts to contain political fallout from poor air quality and city smog.
In its latest effort to boost wind energy consumption, the government announced earlier this month it would lower the price of wind power by an average of 6.4 per cent.
Still, the rush to build new farms has bought with it challenges as generating capacity now exceeds the ability of the country’s electricity grid to handle and distribute the power.
According to a Bloomberg report, 11 per cent of capacity sat idle in 2013, meaning wind farm operators were unable to meet the 10 per cent rate of return considered adequate by the government notwithstanding falling turbine costs.
World Wind Energy Association Secretary General Stefan Gsänger welcomed the momentum in developing markets and hopes the rest of the world can work to keep pace.
“[T]he stagnation or even slowdown of many OECD markets is a major matter of concern,” Gsänger said. “If these countries do not intensify their efforts in wind power deployment, they may not only lose their technological leadership, but also miss their renewable energy targets.”
The WWEA expects a healthy 24 gigawatts of new capacity to be installed during 2014, bringing the total of installed capacity to 360 gigawatts by the end of this year – enough to meet four per cent of global electricity demand.
Longer term, the organisation says the outlook is positive as wind has now reached a level of competitiveness and reliability which makes it a viable option for governments, electricity producers and consumers around the world.