Market Status Report: Wind bucks the downturn

wORLDWIDE: There is no rest for the weary: fresh from achieving high growth in the punishing economic climate of 2010, the global wind sector now faces tougher regulatory policies in major markets and continued uncertainty over finance in 2011.

Windpower Monthly global Market Status Report

Last year was proof that the industry has staying power. About 35GW of new wind was added globally, a yearly rise of more than 22% that brought the world total to over 193GW. But that was well below 2009's 30% rise.

Many countries managed to fly despite the recession. But China soared. It added nearly 16GW, a rise of more than 60%, eclipsing the US to become the world's largest wind market. It now has nearly 42GW of installed wind, more than any other country.

US growth came second: 5GW brought the total to just over 40GW. India's additions were the third largest at 2GW, taking it to 13GW. Spain added 1.5GW, the most in Europe, reaching nearly 21GW. Other notables were Romania, Mexico, Belgium, Turkey and Brazil.

Slower worldwide growth was largely due to the US, where indecisive renewables policy has scared investors away from wind - exacerbating the effects of the recession. The industry says stimulus funds from early 2009 spared wind from meltdown in 2010, but a resurgence by conservatives in Congress may force renewables to compete with nuclear and "clean" coal for government subsidies.

In Germany, the wind sector is closely watching whether the government will try to cut mandated power prices for wind. Although this could spark a rush to build projects before any change in policy, the longer-term implications worry developers. Meanwhile, Spain's government has not yet proposed a replacement for current regulatory drivers for wind that expire next year.

If the skies are cloudy for onshore wind, the sun shines brightly offshore. Worldwide offshore wind capacity grew 65% in 2010 to over 3GW. More than 55% of new UK wind power in 2010 was offshore, and the government is accommodating the industry. Meanwhile, Chinese offshore projects are racing ahead so quickly that top wind insiders even worry about overreach - a reminder to watch the seas for changes ahead.

For reasons of simplicity, some figures have been rounded. As a result, some may not add up exactly to overall totals.

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