Wind Power Blowing Harder

By Florence, Joseph | USA TODAY, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Wind Power Blowing Harder


Florence, Joseph, USA TODAY


GLOBAL WIND ELECTRICITY-GENERATING capacity rose 24% in 2005 to 59,100 megawatts. This represents a twelvefold increase from a decade ago. Wind is the world's fastest growing energy source, with an average annual growth rate of 29% percent over the last 10 years. In contrast, over the same time period, coal and natural gas use edged up 2.5% per year, nuclear power by 1.8%, and oil by 1.7%.

Europe continues to lead the world in total installed capacity, with more than 40,500 megawatts, or two-thirds of the global total. These wind installations supply nearly three percent of Europe's electricity and produce enough power to meet the needs of more than 40,000,000 people. The European Wind Energy Association has set a target to satisfy 23% of European electricity needs with wind by 2030. EWEA also notes that Europe has enough wind resources to meet the electricity demands of all of its countries.

Germany, the nation with the most installed wind-generating capacity, now gets six percent of its electricity from its 18,400 megawatts of wind power. Spain, in second place with over 10,000 megawatts of capacity, gets eight percent of its electricity from wind. Denmark's 3,100 megawatts of wind capacity meet 20% of its electricity needs, the largest share in any country. It ranks fifth in the world in installed capacity. Denmark also is the global leader in offshore wind power installations, with 400 megawatts of existing capacity. Globally, more than 900 megawatts of offshore wind capacity will be installed by the end of 2006--all in Europe.

The U.S. has installed 9,100 megawatts of wind power capacity. America's wind industry installed a record-breaking 2,400 megawatts of wind power in 2005, up from 370 megawatts in 2004 and 1,700 megawatts in 2003. This inconsistent growth mostly is due to the intermittent availability of the Federal wind production tax credit (PTC) that currently stands at 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. In mid 2005, Congress extended the PTC by two years, marking the first time lawmakers did so without first allowing the credit to lapse. With the PTC guaranteed, the U.S. wind industry projects that it will install 25% more capacity by the end of this calendar year.

Canada's installed wind capacity of 680 megawatts at the end of 2005 should be at 1,200 megawatts by the conclusion of 2006. While Canada's federal government targets the installation of 4,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2010, its more ambitious provincial governments plan to install a combined 9,200 megawatts by 2015.

Asian countries have installed nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity capacity. India has 4,400 megawatts of capacity, ranking fourth overall. Wind power in China, currently at 1,260 megawatts, is beginning to flourish due to the country's new Renewable Energy Law, which provides tax incentives and subsidies for wind power and targets the development of 30,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2010. Ambitious as these goals are, experts within the Chinese wind industry report that the country could produce 400,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2050. …

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