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Wind power around the world

By Dave Elliott

Wind power is booming globally, with over 370GW of electricity generation capacity installed so far. It could jump to 2,000 GW, more than five times its current level by 2030, supplying up to 19 % of global electricity, the Global Wind Energy Council says, although that would require ‘unambiguous commitment to renewable energy in line with industry recommendations … [and] the political will to commit to appropriate policies’. However, the GWEC report claims that reaching this ‘advanced scenario’ is well within the capacity of the wind industry. Under the scenario where the current trajectory is maintained, 960MW is predicted to be installed by 2030, while the so-called moderate scenario, which the report sees as the most likely outcome, would have 1,500GW installed. Asia will dominate in all cases, led by China.

That certainly is the case at present in terms of on-land wind: China leads the world in installed wind capacity (115GW so far), although some of that is not grid linked fully, and, despite having a lower installed capacity (around 66GW now), the USA actually generated more power from wind in 2013- obtaining 270TWh from wind, compared with only around 138TWh in China.—ey—Low-Carbon-Industries  and

With around 7GW of on land wind, the UK may be well behind the leaders in on-land wind, but as I reported in my last post, the UK leads in installed offshore wind capacity, with over 4GW in place. However, the race is on to catch up with the UK. Denmark remains in second place, with 1.3 GW installed offshore and at least another 1 GW to be added soon. But Germany has a very ambitious offshore programme, on top of its huge on-land wind programme (39GW so far), although there have been delays, and, with new concerns about costs, the offshore target has now been reset from 10GW to 6.5 GW by 2020, and from 25 GW to 15 GW by 2030. However, floating turbine designs are seen as a way to get costs down, by 20-30%: they don’t need expensive/hard to install foundations:

France too is aiming for rapid expansion, aiming for 6GW of offshore wind by 2020, on top of the 8GW or more of on land wind already in place, and it has been suggested that ultimately around 200TWh could possibly be available from floating offshore devices. The EU-funded Floatgen project has a 2MW demonstrator floating turbine project at SEM-REV test site, off Le Croisic, and progress is being made with the Vertiwind 2MW direct drive, vertical-axis floating turbine, designed for waters up to 200 metres deep. A prototype, developed with the help of £2m funding from the Euro- Commission, is currently being tested on land in Fos-sur-Mer. An offshore wind farm with 13 Vertwind turbines is to be built by EDF at Fos-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean coast near Marseilles. For more on the French programme see :

Japan is also focusing on floating offshore wind, with a 2MW device installed last year off Fukushima and many more planned, and longer-term prospects for perhaps 25GW of offshore wind, along with 25 GW on-land. China appears to have pulled back on its quite large offshore ambition after a government admission last year that it would struggle to hit its target of 5GW by 2015 and 7.1GW by 2016. WPO Intelligence says that China only plans to install 1.5 GW in 2015 and may only reach 3.9GW cumulative by 2016. Even so, some think it will move ahead of Germany and may even overtake the UK:

Europe has made most of the running with offshore wind so far, partly since it has the advantage of having relatively shallow coastal waters, off the UK especially. With its   generally deeper coastal waters, and no shortage of suitable high wind-speed land in the mid west, the USA has still to reach first base in terms of offshore deployment. However it has been claimed that the USA could have 10 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020, and several proposals have come forward, some using floating turbines to enable location in deep water. To link them, an underwater HVDC grid has been proposed off the east coast: But progress has been slow. There has been a long running and often bitter battle over sites off New England on environmental grounds. As a result, sadly the US has a lead in false starts.14.7 GW of projects have been planned and then abandoned, though at last some progress may have been made: Although Fisherman Energy’s 25MW demonstration offshore wind farm off New Jersey (precursor to a 330MW scheme) has just been turned down by the local Public Utility Commission as uneconomic.

Nevertheless, with other smaller payers like Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden also in play within Europe, and S Korea aiming for 2.5GW, offshore wind looks like accelerating globally, soon no doubt taking wind to 400 GW globally. Although as noted above, China is the lead country with wind overall, taken as a whole, the EU still wins, nearing 130GW, offshore included. And the European Wind Energy Association says that by 2020 the EU could have 230GW, including 40GW offshore, supplying 15.7% of EU electricity. Certainly wind can be economically attractive. The EWEA claims that on shore wind is now cheaper than coal, gas and nuclear, when full external eco and health costs are included:

However, with China racing ahead (it may have 200GW on land by 2020), and India following behind a little more leisurely (it has 22GW on land so far, but plans more), together with smaller programmes elsewhere in the East, including Japan and S Korea, Asia looks like it will dominate in wind energy. It may also dominate in solar PV, although, as I explore in my next post, PV is still doing very well in Germany- nearly equal to wind in terms of installed capacity, if not in output terms.

For recent global wind data see:  For the EU see: That put the UK at 12.4GW, Germany at 39.2GW and the EU overall at 128.8GW at the end of 2014.

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