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Really big business

In its tenth annual overview of the state of the wind power industry, Windpower Monthly covers a grand total of 55 countries actively developing wind energy last year (pages 41-124). That is eight more than covered in our 2008 overview and 41 more countries than in our first global market status back in 2000. In a single decade, installed wind power capacity has gone from 10 GW to shoot past 100 GW early last year, closing 2008 at just under 121 GW. For those of us who gathered around a bar in a small north German town in 1991 to discover, at a European Wind Energy Association conference, that Europe had just achieved its first 1 GW of wind power, these are heady numbers indeed.

Sixteen countries now have more than 1 GW of wind power installed. Seven commissioned over 1 GW in a single year in 2008, along with two US states. The installation last year of nearly 27 GW of wind power generating capacity in more than 50 countries represents EUR 40.5 billion of economic activity. That is the equivalent of one fifth of Denmark's gross domestic product, to use for comparison a country that did more than any other to launch the green energy revolution that wind power represents.

As our cover illustration demonstrates, America and Asia have taken over Europe's role as the growth markets of the future, but it was still Europe that installed most wind power last year, putting 8.8 GW into operation. Given the EU target for 20% renewables by 2020 that member states have signed up to, Europe's 15% growth rate is unlikely to drop much, particularly with offshore wind development becoming a serious item on government and utility agendas and the markets of south-eastern Europe, with good winds and wide open spaces, coming into their own.

What impact the global economic crisis will have on wind power's growth rates remains to be seen. But on reading the country-by-country status reports in this issue, it is abundantly clear that Europe, America and Asia all now recognise that investment in wind power is investment in energy price stability -- and that energy price stability is key to global economic health. It could be that wind's 25% growth rate might slow, but even if it should fall to 20%, that is another 24 GW this year.

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