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Credit-crisis dragged wind power's 2010 growth down

By Martin Leggett - 23 Mar 2011 18:38:0 GMT
Credit-crisis dragged wind power's 2010 growth down

For most industries, a 22% leap in new plant would be welcome news indeed. But for the wind industry, that number meant that 2010 was a 'tough year', according to its annual Global Wind Report, produced by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

That's because, after many years of accelerating growth, 2010 was the first in two decades to show that the rate of growth - in newly installed wind power capacity - had fallen from previous years. However, this is seen as a bump in the road, rather than signs of it petering out. And there are interesting new trends in the industry, including an increasing drive from the developing world.

Overall, the generating power of new wind farms rose by 36 GigaWatts (GW) in 2010. That compared to a 39 GW increase the previous year, and so a fall in growth of 7%. The report lays the blame for that firmly at the door of reduced financing from commercial banks. They reined in lending on big infrastructure projects following the credit crisis. This knocked back orders from the developed OECD world considerably. The US, for example, saw a 50% fall in additional power from wind turbines last year.

That decline was partly offset by much higher orders from the developing world - with markets outside of North America and Europe taking up more than 50% of new installs. This is the first time that this has happened. China was the largest driver of this developing-world wind rush, adding some 16 GW of wind power. It is now top of the table of wind-powered countries.

Interestingly, the report says that this massive growth has led to China's home-grown wind power industry to come on, in leaps and bounds. It is now in a position to export turbines across the world, with 2 of its companies in the big 5 of turbine manufacturers. This shows how the greening of industry can be good for jobs - and highlights the dangers of remaining stuck in economic thinking mired in fossil-fuels.

The report also sees the prospects for wind power as very promising. State spending is stepping up to the plate, where commercial finance has faltered, and orders globally for 2011 are stacking up. The GWEC says ''We expect that by the time this report is printed, global installed capacity will have reached 200 GW. we estimate.''

That will only be realized if there is action to drive renewables forward - which the GWEC sees as coming from a ''clear pathway towards a global price on carbon.'' That is a call for action from the stumbling international climate change negotiations - and the next round of the Convention on Climate Change taking place in Durban this year.