Windicator: UK has best start to 2013

With more than 1GW of capacity commissioned since the start of the year, adding 13% to its wind energy capacity, the UK looks set to take the crown for the best start to the year 2013.

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The country's total capacity exceeds 9.5GW and is likely to reach 10GW by the end of the year. Other star performers in Europe - but trailing some way behind - were Sweden and Turkey, each adding about 250MW, while Spain and Italy continued to make steady progress.

In Asia, China maintained its regular frenetic progress, putting 3.3GW online. India added nearly 1GW, but uncertainties over grid connections may be inhibiting progress.

Growth in the US seems likely to pick up with the re-establishment of the production tax credit, but the net additions so far this year are quite modest. The US takes the top spot for wind in Ernst & Young's Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, which suggests the rate of installation may accelerate. The professional services firm believes the PTC may be extended.

There is currently 2.3GW of US projects under construction, according to Windpower Monthly market research unit Windpower Intelligence and Data (WPI). And the American Wind Energy Association reported at the end of the first quarter of 2013 that 18 requests for proposals had been issued across several states.

China, Germany and the UK follow the US in Ernst & Young's league table of Wind Energy Attractiveness Indices, for onshore wind. These have generally been strong performers and may help to ensure that installations in 2013 match those of 2012. The UK government did recently unveil policy proposals that some in the wind industry initially worried would make certain projects unviable. Details are still emerging, and recent analysis of the policy suggests net impact on wind may be negligible.

Australia comes fifth. Growth of installed capacity has been robust and, according to WPI, building has started on 1.34GW of projects, six of which are expected to go online this year. The wind resource, meanwhile, is excellent and of more than 19GW of proposed projects, 6.72GW have permits in place. Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of $82/MWh, compared with around $147/MWh from a new coal-fired power plant or $116/MWh from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report published in January (see page 33).


The Attractiveness Index for offshore wind puts the UK in the top spot, followed by Germany, China, Belgium and Denmark. The UK is firmly at the top of the capacity table, with 3.32GW installed and a substantial quantity in the pipeline. The offshore wind index has the US in sixth place. Alhough the country so far does not have a single offshore wind project installed, 32 projects with nearly 20GW cumulative capacity have been proposed, according to WPI. Six, totalling 872MW, have permits. Of these, the best known is Cape Wind, off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, which seems likely to be the first to be built. US companies are also taking a considerable interest in worldwide research and development, including floating offshore wind-turbine concepts.

The competitive position of wind is continually strengthening (see page 33), fuelled partly by rising gas prices and partly by falling wind-turbine prices. With market build capacity currently exceeding demand, this price trend can be expected to continue, says BNEF.

First-quarter earnings reports from major manufacturers reflect some uncertainty over likely growth in 2013. While the renewal of the US production tax credit was welcome, it came too late to arrest a dip in wind turbine orders at the start of the year. There are encouraging signals, however, that wind turbines are becoming ever more reliable and this is reflected in lower operation and maintenance costs, plus longer guarantee periods. Wind turbines are also continuing to grow in size: Vestas, for example, reports that construction and testing of components for their 8MW, 164-metre diameter wind turbine is now well advanced. The prototype is expected to be installed next year. Meanwhile, Siemens has installed two 6MW prototypes at an offshore wind farm off the English east coast. Continuing advances in technology mean substantial sums are still being spent on research and development. The European Wind Energy Association expects spending of EUR1.74 billion in 2013-15, with about 30% coming from the EU. In its European Wind Initiative: Wind Power Research and Development to 2020 report, EWEA encourages yet higher funding and proposes a structured research programme in several areas. The sector is maintaining its footing in difficult times.



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