The Global Wind Energy Council this week announced that the world’s wind power capacity grew by 31% in 2009, adding 37.5 gigawatts (GW) to bring total installations up to 157.9 GW. A third of these additions were made in China, which experienced yet another year of over 100% growth. The main markets driving this significant growth continue to be Asia, North America and Europe, each of which installed more than 10 GW of new wind capacity in 2009.

“The continued rapid growth of wind power despite the financial crisis and economic downturn is testament to the inherent attractiveness of the technology, which is clean, reliable and quick to install. Wind power has become the power technology of choice a growing number of countries around the world,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary general. “Copenhagen didn’t bring us any closer to a global price on carbon, but wind energy continued to grow due to national energy policy in our main markets and also because many governments in prioritized renewable energy development in their economic recovery plans.”

China was the world’s largest market in 2009, more than doubling its wind generation capacity from 12.1 GW in 2008 to 25.1 GW at the end of 2009 with new capacity additions of 13 GW.

“The Chinese government is taking very seriously its responsibility to limit CO2 emissions while providing energy for its growing economy. China is putting strong efforts into developing the country’s tremendous wind resource. Given the current growth rates, it can be expected that the even the unofficial target of 150 GW will be met well ahead of 2020,” said Li Junfeng, secretary general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Newly added capacity of 1,270 MW in India and some smaller additions in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan make Asia the biggest regional market for wind energy in 2009, with more than 14 GW of new capacity.

The U.S. wind energy market installed nearly 10 GW in 2009, increasing the country’s installed capacity by 39% and bringing the total installed, grid-connected capacity to 35 GW. In early 2009, some analysts had foreseen a drop in wind power development of as much as 50%, but the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with its strong focus on wind energy development in the summer reversed this trend. For more on U.S. installation numbers, read US Continues Breaking Records, Installs 9922 MW of Wind in 2009 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com’s Graham Jesmer.

Europe, which has traditionally been the world’s largest market for wind energy development, continued to see strong growth, also exceeding expectations. In 2009, 10.5 GW were installed in Europe, led by Spain (2.5GW) and Germany (1.9 GW). Italy, France and the UK all added more than 1 GW of new wind capacity each.

39% of all new capacity installed in 2009 was wind power, followed by gas (26%) and solar photovoltaics (16%). Europe decommissioned more coal and nuclear capacity than it installed in 2009. Taken together, renewable energy technologies account for 61% of new power generating capacity in 2009.

Investment in new European wind farms in 2009 reached €13 billion, including €1.5 billion offshore. 10,163 MW of wind power capacity was installed across the European Union – a 23% increase compared to 2008 installations – made up of 9,581 MW onshore (up 21% from last year) and 582 MW offshore (up 56% from last year).

“It is a remarkable result in a difficult year” said Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “The figures, once again, confirm that wind power, together with other renewable energy technologies and a shift from coal to gas, are delivering massive European carbon reductions, while creating much needed economic activity and new jobs for Europe’s citizens.”

Wind power’s total capacity in the European Union has now reached 74,767 MW, up from 64,719 MW by the end of 2008 with Germany remaining the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, Italy, France and the UK. The wind capacity installed by the end of 2009 will in a normal year produce 163 terrawatt-hours of electricity, meeting 4.8% of total EU power demand.

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