Development from the Windicator

Global wind power capacity has now passed 40,000 MW, a significant milestone. Our Windicator column for the first quarter of the year, however, focuses as usual on the end-year status not the current total. Such was the frantic pace of development in the last few weeks of 2003 that our previous estimate of the global increase for the year, made in December for January's Windicator, was way too pessimistic. Around 8200 MW of wind plant came online worldwide in 2003. That is nearly 1600 MW, or 24%, more than the increase in 2002.

The overall long term growth rate remains at 30%, as it has for the past ten years. The growth rate last year (of cumulative operating megawatts) was almost identical to that in the previous year, at 26%. At that rate, global wind power generation will be doubling every three years.

In the long term, such high rates (measured over at least five to six years) are likely to come down, but prophecies and recent reports of a substantial decline in the wind market seem wildly off the mark. With new national markets opening up, the massive potential of offshore wind within grasp, and even maturing markets such as Germany and Spain declining more sedately than expected, the risk right now of a serious dip in growth rates does not seem imminent. Germany's performance in 2003 (2608 MW) was 20% down on its record year in 2002, while Spain's 1372 MW was down by 120 MW.

The declining fortunes of Europe's two largest markets did mean that 380 MW less was installed in Europe last year than in 2002. On the other hand, the nearly 1700 MW performance of the US and the rapid growth of markets in Asia more than made up for the slight slow-down in European growth before the offshore wave rolls in.

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