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2013 Wind Energy Installations Stall In US, Surge In China

35,467 megawatts of new wind energy capacity were installed globally in 2013, up 12.5% from 2012, led primarily by China as the US and European industries stalled over policy uncertainty.

Policy uncertainty buffeted the world’s wind energy industry in 2013, somewhat slowing overall capacity additions, but strong headwinds appear ready to lift the industry to new heights in 2014.

This look back, and look ahead, comes from the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) 2013 Market Statistics report. GWEC’s assessment found 12.5% cumulative global growth compared to 2012, resulting in “another difficult year for the industry.”

Despite a year of modest growth, however, worldwide wind energy capacity has more than doubled over the past five years and is set to gust ahead in 2014 led by installation booms in China, the United States, and several developing nations.

“Relatively Down Year” Still Results in Nearly 35GW New Wind Energy Capacity

35,467 megawatts (MW) of new wind turbine capacity was installed globally in 2013, a decrease of nearly 10,000MW compared to 2012’s installed totals, and attributable largely to a decline in US installations caused by uncertainty over the Production Tax Credit (PTC) renewal.

Even with a relatively down year, cumulative global wind capacity reached 318,137MW in 2013 – up nearly 200,000MW since 2008. “Outside of Europe and the US, the global market grew modestly last year, led by China and an exceptionally strong year in Canada,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC secretary general. “While the policy hiatus in the US hit our 2013 figures hard, the good news is that projects under construction in the US totaled more than 12,000MW at year end, a new record.”

Indeed, only 1,084MW of new wind capacity was installed in the US during 2013, good for just fifth place worldwide. That’s a small number considering America has the second-most cumulative installed wind capacity in the world at 61,091MW. For even more context on how PTC uncertainty stalled US installations, Canada, which had just 6,204MW of installed capacity coming into the year, beat out its southern neighbor with 1,599MW new capacity in 2013.

Europe, the longtime regional leader in total wind capacity with 121,474MW, installed 12,031MW new capacity in 2013. That number is roughly 8% lower than 2012 totals, but was primarily centered in just two countries – Germany with 3,238MW and the United Kingdom with 1,883MW – “an unhealthy concentration of the market,” said Sawyer.

Developing Nations Take Flight

But just as Europe and the US slowed down in 2013, China and the developing world accelerated, taking flight toward new heights in 2014. China, the undisputed global wind leader with 75,324MW installed capacity at the start of the year, built 16,100MW worth of new turbines in 2013 – just under half all new capacity added worldwide! China’s installed capacity now totals 91,424MW, leading GWEC to speculate the country’s wind industry may be entering a new phase of maturity.

“China is a growth market again,” said Sawyer. “The government’s commitment to wind power has been reinforced once again by raising the official target for 2020 to 200GW, and the industry has responded.”

The winds of change weren’t just limited to China, however. India installed 1,729MW in 2013, roughly a 10% increase and fourth-most worldwide, to reach 20150MW. The country has also established a national “wind mission” consisting of regulatory fixes and grid improvements, set to start mid-2014.

Brazil, which entered the year with just 2,508MW installed capacity, added 948MW in 2013 to reach 3,456MW. The country’s wind market is truly about to take off, however, with 4,700MW of new projects booked in 2013 – meaning it will more than double overall capacity.

Positive Overall Outlook For 2014

The sum total of all these factors is a relatively sanguine outlook from GWC for the years ahead. “Non-OECD markets are pretty healthy on the whole, and there is a steady stream of markets emerging in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” said Sawyer. “With the US apparently back on track, at least for the next two years, the main challenge is stabilizing European markets, both onshore and offshore, which have been rocked by political dithering over the past two years.”

GWEC forecasts 2014 installations will return to at least 2012’s record mark, when 45,169MW were installed, although it notes a more accurate outlook will arrive with its annual five-year forecast from 2014-2018 in April.


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Written By

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

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