Strong growth pushes wind close to 500GW

WORLDWIDE: Wind power's record growth in 2015 proved a predictably hard act to follow, but 2016 was the industry's second best year in terms of new installations worldwide. Windpower Monthly drills down on the numbers to highlight the countries and regions where wind is winning

Pressing ahead… Wind power is growing in Australia again, despite the lack of federal support (pic:RES Australia)
Pressing ahead… Wind power is growing in Australia again, despite the lack of federal support (pic:RES Australia)

Just short of 55GW of new wind-power capacity was installed worldwide in 2016, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

That was a little down on 2015's record number, but higher than any other year. The global total now stands at more than 487GW, nearly half of which — 241GW — has been added in the past five years.

Asia Pacific | Europe | North America | Latin America | Middle East & Africa | Offshore

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The focus in China is slowly shifting towards making better use of its existing wind fleet, and installations last year were slightly down on 2015, according to provisional GWEC figures.

But that still amounted to over 23GW, or two-fifths of the year's total. China's installed wind-power capacity now stands at close to 170GW, more than a third of the global total, although according to the National Energy Administration, less than 150GW is actually online and operating.

India added a record 3.6GW in 2016, a figure only exceeded by China, the US and Germany. Cumulative capacity is close to 29GW, but up to 4.5GW is now scheduled for dismantling and repowering.

Pakistan was the region's fastest growing market last year, the 282MW installed nearly doubling its total.

There are signs of life in the Australian wind-power market with several projects in development, but only 140MW of operating capacity was added last year.

Growth in Japan remains sluggish, with only 196MW installed in 2016. It was outstripped by South Korea (201MW) for the first time.


Germany provided nearly 40% of Europe's new wind capacity in 2016, adding 5.4GW to take its total to just over 50GW. That was slightly down on 2015, but still more than three times that of any other country.

France and Turkey supplied the region's other onshore success stories, adding around 1.6GW and 1.4GW respectively, well up on 2015's additions.

There was solid if unspectacular growth in Sweden, Denmark and Ireland, too. But there was little to celebrate across most of central and eastern Europe.

Poland and Romania have driven wind power expansion in this area in the recent past, but the Polish administration's anti-onshore wind policy has begun to bite, with new capacity falling from 2015's 1,266MW to last year's 682MW, while Romania's confidence in meeting its 2020 renewable targets has stifled investment in wind power.

The Spanish market remains moribund, with just 49MW added to the grid last year, and there are few signs of significant growth in Italy.

The UK added 736MW in 2016, a reasonable performance given that only 56MW of this was offshore, but little is being added to the onshore pipeline following the government's withdrawal of support.

North America

A fourth-quarter surge saw the US install 8.2GW of new wind-power capacity in 2016, bringing the total to over 82GW.

Five states accounted for nearly three-quarters of last year's new build: Texas (2,611MW), Oklahoma (1,462MW), Iowa (707MW), Kansas (687MW), and North Dakota (603MW).

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is bullish about wind's prospects in the shortto medium-term, despite the new administration's expressed preference for fossil fuels.

According to AWEA, more than 10GW of new capacity is already under construction, with another 8GW in advanced development. AWEA says the 18GW is spread across 130 projects in 31 states.

New installations fell sharply in Canada, from 1,545MW in 2015 to just 702MW last year. A similar amount is expected to be added during 2017.

Longer-term, the outlook is more promising, as Alberta and Saskatchewan start to build towards more ambitious renewable-energy targets.

Latin America

Brazil's economic woes are supressing demand for electricity, and wind-power growth is now slowing markedly.

Just over 2GW was installed in 2016, compared with 3.2GW the year before, bringing cumulative capacity to 10.7GW.

Chile pushed past Mexico in new build last year, installing 513MW for a cumulative capacity of 1,424MW.

Mexico remains the region's second largest market, with more than 3.5GW, but added only 454MW last year, compared with 692MW in 2015. Uruguay has also entered the 1GW-plus club, adding 365MW in 2016 for a total of 1,210MW.

Argentina is the brightest prospect for growth in the region, but work is only just beginning on the projects that emerged from its two renewables tenders last year. No new wind capacity was completed in 2016.

Middle East & Africa

South Africa's wind boom has been on hold, with state utility Eskom dragging its heels over signing power purchase agreements with wind developers.

However, 418MW was installed last year to take cumulative capacity to 1,471MW.

Morocco looks set to provide the best opportunities for wind developers in the region.

Only 95MW was installed in 2016, but an Enel-led consortium is working on 850MW over five projects, with Siemens providing the turbines, while Vestas hardware will power the 120MW Khalladi project, which is scheduled for commissioning this year.

Egypt is aiming for 7GW of wind power by 2022, but progress has been slow. The government has secured funding for a 200MW project and plans to launch a tender later this year.


It was a fairly quiet year for offshore wind in Europe, with the market-leading UK adding only 56MW in 2016, although around 700MW is at an advanced stage of construction and will be commissioned this year.

Germany installed 813MW to take its offshore fleet to over 4GW, while the Netherlands added 691MW, most of which was provided by the commissioning of the 600MW Gemini project.

The US entered the offshore sector with the completion of the 30MW Block Island project, and South Korea completed its first commercial-scale offshore development with the 30MW Tamra wind farm.

Offshore growth remains slow in China, but it added 592MW in 2016 to overtake Denmark as the third biggest player in the sector behind the UK and Germany.

India joins China to boost Asia’s global lead

Worldwide additions of nearly 55GW of new wind-power capacity surpassed predictions, but with Europe switching to competitive tendering and fossil-fuel champions taking over in Washington, the long-term future for the sector’s established markets looks more uncertain

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