The global wind energy industry installed 44.711 GW of capacity last year, bringing the world's cumulative installed wind power capacity to approximately 282.482 GW at the end of 2012, according to statistics released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
This represents an annual market growth of almost 10% and cumulative capacity growth of about 19% in 2012. The U.S. and China tied for the top spot in wind energy installed last year, with approximately 13 GW each.
"While China paused for breath, both the U.S. and European markets had exceptionally strong years," explains Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the GWEC. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second and Europe not far behind."
Both the Chinese and Indian markets slowed somewhat in 2012, with their annual installations coming in at 13.2 GW and 2.3 GW, respectively. Market consolidation and rationalization in China, and a lapse in policy in India were the main reasons, but these conditions are expected to be short-lived, and Asian dominance of global wind markets is expected to continue, the GWEC says.
In a last-minute rush to complete projects before the anticipated expiration of the production tax credit (PTC), the U.S. wind industry installed more than 8 GW in the fourth quarter, ending up at 13.1 GW for the year. Canada had a solid year, and Mexico more than doubled its installed capacity, adding 801 MW for a total of 1.37 GW.
Meanwhile, European markets, led by Germany and the U.K., accounted for 12.4 GW of wind energy last year - a new record, according to the GWEC. Emerging markets - such as Sweden, Romania, Italy and Poland - also contributed to this growth. However, ongoing sovereign debt crises mean that the outlook for the European market this year is uncertain, although Europe’s framework legislation and its 2020 targets ensure a degree of stability.
Europe continued to lead the offshore wind energy market, with 1.166 GW installed, representing more than 90% of the 1.293 GW in total global offshore wind installations in 2012.
Brazil led the Latin American market, with 1.077 GW installed, to bring its total installed capacity to just over 2.5 GW. Australia accounted for all of the new installations in the Pacific region, with 358 MW of new capacity in 2012, for a cumulative capacity of 2.584 GW.
The Middle East and North Africa region had another quiet year, with only one 50 MW project completed in Tunisia, but sub-Saharan Africa’s first large commercial wind farm - a 52 MW project in Ethiopia - came online in 2012.
“This is just the beginning of the African market, and with construction started on 500+ MW in South Africa, we expect Africa to be a substantial new market, where clean, competitive energy generated with indigenous sources is a priority for economic development,” Sawyer says.