The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).predicts that worldwide installed capacity will reach 18,500 MW in just nine years and, if electricity restructuring is favourable to renewables, it optimistically states the US will still lead the world as a region of new wind projects, with additional capacity reaching 2730 MW by 2005.

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Worldwide installed capacity will reach 18,500 MW -- more than three times today's total -- in just nine years, representing a market of more than $18 billion, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). It predicts that the 18,500 MW mark will be reached by the year 2005, according to projections released on April 12.

These optimistic figures are based on both publicly and privately held information and assume the political scene -- and view of renewables -- will remain constant, with only moderate increases in fossils prices, and moderate improvements in the cost of wind power. In the US, AWEA assumes that wind installations will grow slowly for the next four years, and then increase rapidly to a total of more than 2700 MW in new installed capacity by 2005, up from a base of 1770 MW in 1995. That is, US capacity will grow by more than 150% in just nine years.

In the first quarter of 1996, AWEA maintains that worldwide capacity reached 5000 MW, of which 1300 MW had been installed in 1995 alone, a 35% increase over 1994. The study notes, however, that the US market lagged last year while others such as India and Germany flourished. AWEA attributes stagnation in the US to pending utility restructuring, which it says has made utility planners "gun-shy" of planning any new capacity additions."

It is not clear if the figures are goals or projections. AWEA explains at one point, for example, that if electricity restructuring is favourable to renewables, the outlook for wind will be hopeful. If that is the case, the United States will still lead the world as a region of new wind projects over the next nine years, says the association.

By 2005, AWEA specifically projects that additional capacity in the US will have reached 2730 MW. India would be a close second with additions at 2500 MW. China, assuming it improves its present and somewhat poor investment climate, would be third equal with Germany at 1300 MW in new installations each, while Spain would be a close fifth with 1275 MW in projected additions.

To ensure the US industry's competitiveness, AWEA calls for implementation of a renewables portfolio standard, which would rely upon market mechanisms to ensure that a minimum level of renewables is developed. Adequate federal research and development must also be maintained, along with current production tax credits and federal aid and trade programmes to support US industry to compete internationally.

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