Europe's dismal year drags down global installation figures

The shift to competitive tendering in several of the main wind markets continues to have a negative effect on new installations, with Europe in particular feeling the squeeze last year. Windpower Monthly sifts through the provisional global figures for new build in 2018.

Highlight in low lands… The Netherlands reached nearly 3.5GW in total installations after adding 315MW in 2018 (pic: GE Renewable Energy/Matthias Ibeler)
Highlight in low lands… The Netherlands reached nearly 3.5GW in total installations after adding 315MW in 2018 (pic: GE Renewable Energy/Matthias Ibeler)

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The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is releasing its figures for new wind installations in 2018 on something of a drip feed this year, with its final report not due to be published until April.

But provisional data from Windpower Intelligence (WPI), the research division of Windpower Monthly, point to a slowdown in worldwide growth, with new installation totals falling below 50GW for the first time since 2014.

Activity was centred on just six markets — China, the US, Germany, the UK, India and Brazil. Together these accounted for 39.5GW of the 48.8GW total (81%).

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

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The extent to which China’s new installations have been commissioned and grid-connected remains difficult to quantify, but after a slight dip in 2017, the rate of new build has been gathering pace.

Provisional figures indicate that China installed around 22GW last year, more than 45% of the global total.

The region’s other powerhouse, India, felt the fallout of the switch from feed-in tariffs to auction systems in 2018. After a bumper 2017, when 4.15GW was added, new build dropped to just 2.2GW last year. Most observers see this as a blip rather than a trend, and GWEC is among those predicting that India will soon be installing 5GW annually.

Australia was the third best-performing market in the region, adding 549MW in the face of the federal government’s continued opposition to wind power. Australia’s operating total passed the 5GW mark during the year, making it the 14th largest wind market globally.

Growth was distinctly modest in the region’s other markets. Japan added only 105MW, less than Pakistan, while there was no new build in Taiwan and South Korea, which are both focusing on offshore development.

However, GWEC sees the Asia-Pacific region as the most promising for onshore wind-power growth in the near future, predicting that up to 145GW of new capacity will be installed by the end of 2023.


It was, frankly, a dismal year for wind power in Europe.

After installing a record 6.6GW in 2017, Germany managed only 3GW last year. The transition to auctions plus permitting problems and delays look likely to put a brake on new development for some years to come.

The UK’s 2.8GW in 2018 was also well down on the previous year’s 4.3GW, reflecting the drying-up of the pipeline of projects that were permitted before the government announced the withdrawal of support for onshore wind.

France added only 845MW last year, compared with 1,694MW in 2017. Unless and until the country gets its offshore act together, growth is likely to remain slow. The country did finally enter the offshore sector last year, but only with a 2MW floating pilot project.

Just a handful of European markets improved on their 2017 performance, the standout countries being Belgium (695MW added last year), Sweden (450MW), and the Netherlands (315MW).

Poland added only 8MW, although a proposed relaxation in setback regulations may bring life back to the market in the coming years. Spain and Italy remain in the doldrums, Portugal has not installed any new wind in the past two years, and Romania’s wind sector is similarly dormant.

North America

The US showed a marginal improvement last year over its 2017 performance, 7.4GW against 7GW, although still well down on 2016’s 8.2GW.

Texas, as usual, led the way, overtaking Spain in the world rankings to make it the fourth biggest wind market in the world, behind only China, Germany and India.

Texas fell just short of a 25GW total at the end of last year, a mark it has since surpassed, adding more than 2.2GW of capacity.

Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois were the best of the rest, all adding more than 500MW last year, with Iowa just topping 1GW.

Between them, these six states accounted for just over three quarters of the total US new build in 2018.

Growth remains sluggish in Canada, with only 578MW installed last year, mostly in Quebec. That was however, some improvement on 2017’s 341MW.

Mexico did rather better with 945MW installed in 2018, nearly twice as much as in the previous year, sufficient to take the country’s total wind capacity to just shy of 5GW.

South America

Despite its economic woes, Brazil added 2GW to its wind fleet in 2018, bringing its total to 14.7GW. Argentina showed the best rate of growth, though, more than trebling its overall capacity with the installation of 412MW last year.

Rather more modest figures were recorded by Chile (179MW), Uruguay (142MW) and Peru (132MW).

The region as a whole now has over 20.7GW of operating capacity, 3GW of which was added last year.

Middle East & Africa

The highlight for this region in 2018 was undoubtedly the much-delayed commissioning of the 310MW Lake Turkana project in Kenya, followed by the financial close for a 100MW project in Kajiado county, near Nairobi.

But there was little to cheer about elsewhere. Growth in Turkey slowed dramatically, from 766MW in 2017, to 297MW last year, the country’s economic problems and political unrest deterring investment.

However, it remains by far the largest market in the region, accounting for over 7GW of the total capacity of 12.7GW.

Egypt’s target of 7GW of wind power by 2022 continues to look hopelessly optimistic. The country added 380MW last year to bring total capacity to 1.2GW.

Despite hopes that the logjam caused by state utility Eskom refusing to sign power purchase agreements for wind power had been resolved in 2018, there was no new wind capacity added in South Africa.

Morocco, another market once slated for rapid growth, also failed to add new capacity last year.


The scale of many new offshore projects, and the time it takes to complete them, tends to cause peaks and troughs in growth rates for the sector.

There are also discrepancies over the reporting of operating capacity as unfinished projects start delivering some power to the grid.

The latest figures from WindEurope differ somewhat from WPI’s estimates.

The trade body quotes nearly 2.7GW of new offshore capacity installed in European waters last year, of which 1.3GW was in the UK, 969MW in Germany, 309MW in Belgium, and 61MW in Denmark.

That is well down on the 4.3GW installed in 2017, but still sufficient to take Europe’s offshore total above 18GW.

WPI points to 3.7GW of offshore capacity in the Asia-Pacific region, with nearly 3.5GW located in China, and the rest shared between Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Only 687MW was added last year.


Is slower growth a blip or sign of things to come?

As last year, a handful of major markets dominated growth in the global wind market in 2018.

But for the first time since 2014, less than 50GW of new capacity was installed. China is showing signs of bouncing back, while some of the other major players are doing less well.

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