Comment: Good news in challenging times

After a disappointing 2010, the wind sector can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief as the figures for the first half of this year show a welcome pick-up in the pace of growth. Not only has the symbolic figure of 200GW in global installed capacity been reached but, more importantly, a very healthy 14GW of new capacity - the largest ever for the January-June period - has been added.

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What makes this news all the more encouraging is the fact that several elements in a number of countries appear to be working against wind at the moment. There is scarcely room for onshore growth in Europe's traditional wind powerhouses - Germany and Spain - and persistent policy and permitting indecision in other countries with much potential, such as Italy and Romania. In the US, regulatory uncertainty against a complex political backdrop, alongside age-old siting and transmission issues, is holding back confidence in the market.

Elsewhere, political turmoil has been occupying minds in North Africa and the Middle East, while Japan is still weighing up its energy options in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. China, for its part, is reluctantly starting to relax its grip on its domestic market, removing some of the obstacles that have been limiting opportunities for foreign manufacturers.

That wind power should record such a good first half of the year - which is typically much slower than the second half - under such challenging circumstances is very encouraging indeed. One reason for this success may be the much wider range of options that wind energy is now able to offer. With turbine and components technology continuing to advance in leaps and bounds, operations and maintenance expertise maturing and an experienced workforce quickly rising to the challenge, the prospects for wind power to become the energy source of choice in a variety of situations have never been so good.

The offshore sector, while still presenting huge challenges especially in terms of logistics and financing, is no longer a distant pipedream. A number of countries, including the UK and Germany, have ambitious plans for growth and are putting in place the right measures to turn them into reality.

Onshore, lowand medium-wind-speed sites that would have been unsuitable for wind power until recently are becoming a sensible proposition, thanks to the development of dedicated turbines. After an initial phase of all-out development, wind power has successfully started making the transition to a more mature market concerned with the bottom line. In many cases, cost of energy has reduced so much that wind has reached grid parity with more traditional energy sources.

This technology that emits no carbon dioxide to produce energy, uses infinitely less water than other energy sources, creates jobs over the long term and reduces reliance on fossil fuels is confirming its status as the energy source of choice in an ever-growing number of situations.

As the voice of this industry from its very early days, Windpower Monthly is proud to be associated with a sector that has managed to renew itself and grow with the times. And we are grateful to all of you for helping us win a prestigious media industry award, the PPA Business Monthly of the Year. Let us all work together to make 2011 even more of a success.

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