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Global Wind Industry Hits Record 62 GW Installed In 2015

The global wind energy industry had a record year in 2015, with 62 GW installed, led by China which installed just under 29 GW.

Three separate reports investigating wind development through 2015 have all arrived this week, thanks to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), and Navigant Research. But the story told in each report is the same — 2015 was a huge year for the global wind energy industry.

According to new figures released by Bloomberg on Monday, global wind energy installs for 2015 reached 62 GW, led by China which surpassed its own previous onshore wind record by close to 40%, installing just under 29 GW. China is often at the top of clean energy capacity lists, but even Bloomberg admitted that “last year’s extraordinary surge surpassed most estimates.” According to Bloomberg, the “extraordinary surge” was due to “developers rushing to complete projects to qualify for a more lucrative feed-in-tariff that expired at the end of last year.”

China’s record wind install numbers were good news for Chinese manufacturers as well, with nearly all of the capacity installed in China during 2015 being supplied by Chinese manufacturers. Goldwind accounted for over a quarter of China’s new installed capacity, with 7.7 GW, followed by Guodian United Power with 2.9GW, and Envision and Ming Yang tied in third with 2.7GW.

“2015 was a fantastic year for the wind industry,” said Amy Grace, head of Wind Insight for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “China was by far the biggest surprise. While it’s not atypical for China to lead in new energy installs, 29 GW far exceeded our estimates.”

Following behind China was the United States, which installed 8.6 GW in 2015, followed by Germany (3.7 GW), India (2.6 GW), and Brazil (2.6 GW).

The offshore wind market is a little bit of a different beast, and according to BNEF Germany topped the list with a new 2.6 GW added in 2015 — though this spike in installs was due mainly to delays in 2014 installs.

Joining the conversation was Navigant Research with its new report, Offshore Wind Market Update, which concluded that global offshore wind energy cumulative capacity reached nearly 12 GW in 2015, with 3,755 MW of that coming online during 2015 — which compares impressively with the 995 MW that was installed in 2014.

“The market is maturing, with leading countries in Europe now well into a transition phase to more market-oriented policies that track and fluctuate alongside broader market rates and also include competitive bidding to lower project costs,” said Jesse Broehl, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “By 2020, cumulative total offshore wind capacity is expected to surpass 32 GW.”

As intimated by Bloomberg, Navigant also sees Germany leading the way, with more than 65% of 2015’s installed offshore wind capacity, or around 2,467 MW. The UK followed behind Germany with 1,054 MW.

Other countries which are only beginning to enter into the picture are the Netherlands, which installed 129 MW in 2015, and according to Navigant has “a promising pipeline,” and China, which had at least one project of 97 MW installed during 2015, and another two projects which are likely to boost 2015 numbers by the time official statistics are released.

The European Wind Energy Association also published figures this week, revealing that offshore wind investments in Europe doubled in 2015 to €13.3 billion, in what the trade organization dubbed “a record year for financing and grid-connected installations.”

According to the EWEA, a total of just over 3 GW of offshore wind was brought online in 2015, bringing Europe’s total up to just over 11 GW. On top of the projects brought online during 2015, the EWEA highlighted a further 3 GW over ten projects which reached final investment during 2015.

“It’s good to see the high level of investments in offshore wind in Europe in 2015,” said Giles Dickson, Chief Executive Officer of the European Wind Energy Association. “The 3GW of new capacity additions is also encouraging though it includes a large backlog of grid connections from 2014, especially in Germany.”

The EWEA published slightly different figures to Navigant Research in terms of country capacity additions — with Germany installing 2,282 MW, the UK with only 556 MW, and the Netherlands with 180 MW. The current pipeline also has six projects amounting to 1.9 GW currently underway.

2016 is not expected to be as big a year for Europe, but the future is still bright.

“New capacity additions will be lower in 2016 than 2015 though should then rebound, and we can expect to have over 20 GW offshore wind in Europe by 2020,” continued Dickson. “The real question is what happens after 2020. The industry is making real progress in reducing costs. But we need Governments to give us a clear vision of the volumes they envisage long term and the regulatory framework they’ll apply to drive the necessary investments. Active collaboration between governments is also key: to align their efforts to develop the sector in the North Sea and Baltic.”

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