China and US lead rise in global growth

The wind industry had a better year than in 2018, but the slowing Chinese economy and permitting problems in major markets are affecting growth. Windpower Monthly does some number crunching.

The Slufterdam repowering project helped the Netherlands add 345MW last year (pic: Vattenfall)
The Slufterdam repowering project helped the Netherlands add 345MW last year (pic: Vattenfall)

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Provisional figures collated by Windpower Intelligence (WPI), the data and research division of Windpower Monthly, indicate that 2019 was the best year for new wind installations worldwide since 2016.

WPI takes a conservative approach, focusing on turbines that are grid-connected and generating power rather than merely installed, and, at the time of writing, confirmation was being awaited for figures from a number of countries, including China.

Our estimate of 52.8GW for new build last year is probably around 3-5GW short of the full total.

Europe and North America showed the biggest improvement over 2018, with the other regions largely standing still.

China and the US were the clear leaders in terms of nation-state performance: half of 2019’s new wind capacity was installed in these two countries alone.

Global wind capacity topped the 600GW mark last year, finishing at 621GW, three quarters of which has been added in the past ten years.

But, as the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has pointed out, worldwide wind installations need to be hitting an annual total of at least 100GW if the industry is going to play its projected role in the clean-energy transition.

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

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Asia Pacific

The usual provisos apply to China’s data: reality checks are required for new build that is actually generating electricity, and allowances need to be made for the latest installation figures to filter through and be confirmed.

Even given that, WPI’s estimate of 18.4GW of new capacity marks a distinct reduction on 2018’s 22GW, and possibly indicates slowing growth in the overall Chinese economy, and the effects of US-imposed tariffs.

Offshore development has picked up pace, with WPI identifying nine projects in Chinese waters that were fully commissioned last year, amounting to 2,450MW.

The average rated capacity of the 587 offshore turbines that make up this total is 4.17MW, well below European standards, where 6-10MW is the norm.

Five OEMs were involved in China’s 2019’s offshore additions: Goldwind (800MW), Shanghai Electric (552MW), Envision (500MW), Ming Yang (498MW) and CSIC (100MW).

The most powerful machines installed last year were 19 Goldwind 6.45MW direct-drive GW171/6450 turbines, operating alongside 34 GW140/3300 units at the Dafeng project off Jiangsu province in the East China Sea.

India consolidated its place as the world’s fourth-largest wind market with 2.9GW of new capacity, bringing its total fleet to just shy of 38GW.

The potential for much faster growth remains, but disputes between state and federal governments on the level of support for older wind farms have jammed-up new development in several regions.

Grid and infrastructure weaknesses have also hindered growth, particularly for repowering.

This gulf between intention and implementation risks driving Suzlon, India’s biggest home-grown turbine OEM, into oblivion, and is putting severe strain on the domestic supply chain and development finance.

Like Nero, Australia’s federal government fiddled while the country burned, but individual states continued the push for wind and pioneered hybrid developments by mixing wind with solar PV and storage.

Standout developments in 2019 included the 200MW Silverton project in New South Wales, using 3.4MW GE turbines, Willogoleche (119MW, GE 3.8MW) in South Australia, Badgingarra (130MW, Siemens Gamesa 3.6MW) in Western Australia, and Cattle Hill (150MW, Goldwind 3.2MW) in Tasmania.

There was slow but steady growth in Thailand, Japan, Pakistan and South Korea, but the region’s biggest breakthrough of 2019 was the commissioning of the 120MW Formosa 1 offshore project in Taiwanese waters.

Taiwan has set ambitious targets for offshore wind — 5.7GW by 2025 — which looks like a tall order, but Formosa was a firm step in the right direction.


After a frankly dismal 2018, Europe looked like a much healthier market for wind last year.

WPI figures differ substantially from WindEurope’s — partly a function of Turkey being counted within the Middle East & Africa region by WPI, and the inclusion of projects that had started generating electricity but were not yet fully commissioned by WindEurope.

Germany’s troubles continue. The continent’s largest market by far tipped over the 60GW mark for installed capacity last year, but only 1,078MW was commissioned onshore, plunging the country to a level of new additions not seen since the turn of the century.

And this was a gross figure, with 97MW of older turbines decommissioned. The offshore picture was a little better — with 1,111MW installed last year, taking the German offshore fleet to 7.77GW.

There is little room for optimism in the immediate future, with the German onshore market remaining mired in permitting delays, and prime sites ruled out of use through an ill-conceived setback distance of 1,000 metres being imposed.

Germany’s slump was the last straw for OEM Senvion, which went under last year, and has also hit Enercon hard. The country’s transition from wind beacon to basket case has been rapid.

The UK led the region’s new wind installations in 2019, with 2,393MW — 1,764MW offshore and 629MW onshore.

Very little looks likely to be added in 2020, beyond the final commissioning of ScottishPower’s 714MW East Anglia 1 project, which has already been incorporated into WindEurope’s figures.

The only offshore turbines due to be added to the UK fleet next year are five MHI Vestas V164-8.0MW units on floating foundations for the Kincardine pilot in Scottish waters.

After several years in the doldrums, Spain showed a welcome recovery in 2019.

According to WindEurope, it installed 2,319MW last year, all onshore, which was the highest on the continent.

Other reasonably successful onshore markets included Sweden (1,588MW) and France (1,336MW). France’s offshore sector continues to make very slow progress.

North America

The US president’s incoherent, fact-free rants against "windmills" have cut no ice with the country’s wind developers.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), it was the best year for US wind since 2013, with 9.1GW added.

The US passed the 100GW mark in 2019, finishing the year with a total of nearly 106GW.

Texas remains by far the biggest market, with over 30GW online, but there are now at least 21 states with more than 1GW.

The future looks bright too, with AWEA reporting 44GW under development, spread across 200 projects in 33 states.

Operating offshore capacity remains limited to the 30MW Block Island site, but east coast states doubled their offshore targets to a total of 19GW.

Mexico showed solid growth in 2019, its 1,284MW of new installations taking the country’s total fleet to just under 6GW.

Canada had another year of very modest expansion, just 537MW added in 2019 for an operating total of around 13.5GW.

South America

Political and economic instability was a major factor throughout the continent during 2019. Brazil, long the region’s market leader, added only 745MW last year, its lowest figures since 2011.

The country now has a total operating capacity of over 15.5GW, but the outlook under right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro is not promising.

Argentina led the way for growth, with 931MW added in 2019, for a cumulative total of 1,571MW.

That still leaves it a little short of Uruguay on 1,647MW, although the latter added no new capacity last year, and Chile on 1,889MW.

WPI records only 170MW of new grid-connected and operating installations in Chile in 2019, but GWEC has a much higher figure — 526MW.

Middle East & Africa

Wind-energy growth picked up a little in Turkey last year, its 745MW of new additions comparing favourably with the 297MW of 2018.

It remains the biggest wind market in the region by a considerable margin, supplying over half the total operating capacity of nearly 14GW, but the short-term outlook for growth falls short of the expectations of just two or three years ago.

South Africa added a modest 120MW in 2019, but the prospects look brighter now that the long-running battle between state utility Eskom and developers over power purchase agreements has been resolved.

Egypt’s target of 7GW of wind power by 2022 probably holds the record for being the least achievable. The country added 363MW last year for a total of 1,573MW.

There were no new installations in either Morocco or Kenya during 2019.


Overall growth masks struggles in key markets

Just as one of Europe’s three biggest markets looks set for a comeback after years in the wilderness, prospects for the other two look increasingly bleak.

At least the US is doing well, but China is starting to feel the effects of Trump’s trade war on its economy

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