The market for wind power is bigger than ever before. At the same time, it looks as if it will grow annually far into the foreseeable future. At the moment, the majority of wind turbines continue to be installed in Europe, which last year accounted for 80% of the wind industry's sales. Before the end of this year, Germany will overtake Denmark as the country in Europe with the largest amount of wind power -- predictions are that the German total will reach 600 MW.
But installation of wind turbines in India and China is now picking up speed, whether of imported turbines, domestic machines, or those assembled with a mixture of components from home and abroad. It is here that a market will open up over the next few years of a dimension far larger than so far seen in Europe, with its narrow geographical limitations. For this reason the German market will in all likelihood peak in just a few years time.
Wind plant installation in the United States continues at snail's pace, but the wind industry in both Europe and America has ascertained that a new market breakthrough is just around the corner in North America where many large projects are in the pipeline.
The wind power market's global expansion has recently been analysed by the Danish Association of Windmill Manufacturers. Until now the Danish industry has supplied 52% of all wind turbines sold, but it is well aware that this market share is steadily dwindling. Last year it was down to just under 40% from a high in 1989 of 90%, albeit this was one of the worst years for sales of wind turbines in the past 15 years.
Despite its smaller portion of the market, the Danish industry is far from unhappy -- just as long as the market's expansion continues to more than keep pace with the increased competition. Sales continue to grow and this year total industry turnover in Denmark is expected to rise above DKK 2 billion ($333.3 million), making wind turbines one of Denmark's ten most important exports. Globally, the importance of this fact is that wind power has arrived; it is now accepted the world over as an energy source just as reliable and economic as its competing technologies. Wind power today is now widely recognised as the "most environmentally friendly technology for the production of electricity," as Denmark's new Environment and Energy Minister, Svend Auken, expresses it. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that more and more people agree with him. Added to this is the desire of developing countries to be self reliant in energy and more independent of fossil fuels.
Wind power is an attractive choice for meeting all these aims -- especially now that it is cost competitive with new coal fired plant. It is not just that wind turbines have become cheaper to produce; technology improvements have made them far more effective. Rising energy prices and tougher environment controls all over the world will accelerate wind energy's development.