The global wind industry installed over 41 GW of wind energy in 2011, bringing the total global installed capacity to more than 238 GW at the end of last year, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) announced in its latest report. This represents an increase of 21%, with growth in the size of the annual global market of just over 6%.
About 75 countries worldwide now have commercial wind power installations, and 22 of them have already passed the 1 GW mark.
Despite having faced a challenging year, China has consolidated its position as the global market leader, installing 18 GW in 2011 for a cumulative capacity of more than 62 GW. India was also a leader, installing over 3 GW of wind power in 2011 to push the nation's total capacity to just over 16 GW – a number that is likely to go up to 5 GW per year by 2015, according to D.V. Giri, chairman of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association.
After a difficult 2010, the U.S. wind sector bounced back, with installations of more than 6.8 GW.
"Our 2011 installations alone provide enough electricity to power almost 2 million American homes," notes Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.
Wind power in Canada enjoyed a record year in 2011, surpassing the 5 GW milestone. Canada – and, in particular, Ontario – is emerging as a very competitive destination for wind energy investment globally. However, maintaining that position will require continued commitments to aggressive targets for wind energy development and a stable policy framework, the GWEC says.
Latin America had a solid year, growing by more than 1.2 GW, led by Brazil. Brazilian installations were up by 50%, adding 587 MW to reach a total of just over 1.5 GW.
In the European Union (EU), 9.616 GW of wind energy capacity was installed in 2011, for a total installed capacity of 93.957 GW. However, future growth will depend on favorable policy.
"To achieve the EU's long-term targets, we need strong growth again in future years," notes Justin Wilkes, the European Wind Energy Association's policy director. "A commitment from the European Union to put in place a binding renewable energy target for 2030 would send a very positive signal to potential investors."
Africa also represents a potential area for future wind energy development, notes Steve Sawyer, the GWEC's secretary general.
"We look forward to more new markets opening up in Africa, Asia and Latin America in 2012, and we expect to see some of the new markets in Latin America beyond Brazil start to approach critical mass," he says. "But at the end of the day, we will be hard-pressed to keep the industry's growth up to its potential without a global price on carbon and other measures to account for the real costs to society of conventional power generation."