Worldwide wind capacity surpasses 5,000 MW

Worldwide installed wind power capacity surged to more than 5,000 MW during the first quarter of 1996, and this strong growth in international wind energy markets is expected to continue, according to official projections from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which referred to wind power as “the world`s fastest growing electric power technology.”

Total installed wind power capacity will surpass 18,500 MW by 2005, according to the projections, representing a market exceeding (US)$18 billion. More than 1,300 MW of new wind energy capacity was installed in 1995, a 35 percent jump in world capacity over 1994. However, an imbalance exists: while many markets flourished in 1995, some slowed drastically–particularly the U.S.

Germany and India accounted for almost two-thirds of all new installations last year. The U.S. lagged behinds with only 41 MW of new wind capacity. In the last 10 years, the US share of total world wind energy capacity has dropped from about 90 to 30 percent. “The rest of the world is forging ahead with wind energy development and leaving the US in the dust,” said Randall Swisher, AWEA executive director.

Stagnation in the US market can be attributed to the pending restructuring of the electric utility industry, which has made utility power planners gun-shy of planning any new capacity. The outlook for US growth is hopeful, though, if the industry is restructured in a way that is renewables friendly. AWEA`s projections predict that US wind capacity additions will grow slowly until about 2000, and then increase in the next several years.

AWEA`s projections are based on publicly and privately held information on existing installations and planned capacity additions worldwide. The projections assume no significant political shifts that would cause an increase or decrease in national support for wind energy. They also assume only a moderate shift in fossil fuel prices and efficiency gains from combustion technologies, as well as moderate improvements in the cost of wind-generated power.

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