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Another way of looking at wind in Europe

The progress of wind power in European countries -- which host about 70% of the industry's global market -- is usually measured in terms of megawatts of generating capacity installed. But if different measures of progress are adopted based on electricity generation, a very different picture emerges -- along with some surprising results. Some countries are performing rather better than is usually supposed.

Although Germany is commonly regarded as the European leader in wind power, when it comes to wind's contribution to national electricity consumption it is Denmark and Spain that lead the way, with Portugal and Ireland lining up to overtake Germany too

The progress of wind power in European countries -- which host about 70% of the industry's global market -- is usually measured in terms of megawatts of generating capacity installed. But if different measures of progress are adopted based on electricity generation, a very different picture emerges -- along with some surprising results (charts). Some countries are performing rather better than is usually supposed.

Europe's wind capacity has risen to over 40,000 MW, representing just under 5% of all generating plant in the region. Germany, Spain and Denmark -- referred to in European wind circles as the big three -- head the table, with Germany streets ahead having installed 18,430 MW, almost twice as much as Spain in second place at about 9800 MW and Denmark in third with 3130 MW.

The tables are turned, however, when wind capacity is measured as a percentage of total generation capacity. Then Denmark comes out as the clear winner on 24%, with Spain at 14% hot on the heels of Germany at 15%. Portugal jumps to fourth place with 8.1%, with Ireland following on 7.7%. The Netherlands ranks sixth (5.7%). In all other European countries, wind accounts for less than 5% of total capacity.

The real surprise comes when wind energy is measured as a percentage of total electricity consumption -- a statistic which in many ways provides a truer picture of progress. Again, Denmark is top with wind providing 18% of the country's electricity needs, and Spain is second with wind providing 8%. But Germany's third place (5.5%) is being severely threatened by windier Portugal (5%), with Ireland not far behind in fifth place (4.5%). Greece, the Netherlands and Austria are all above 2%, but the only other country above 1% is Italy. Wind currently meets 2.2% of Europe's total consumption. The conclusion is an obvious one: location matters. Some countries with a higher wind resource outperform others with a far higher installed capacity.

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