This week, I'd like to mention new research that Earth Policy Institute just released on wind power. My colleague Jonathan Dorn, who wrote the report Global Wind Power Capacity Reaches 100,000 Megawatts , notes that global installed wind power capacity could top 100,000 megawatts this month.
Last year was a record year with wind power capacity increasing by 20,000 megawatts, bringing the world total to 94,100 megawatts. As Jonathan writes, that is "enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 150 million people. Driven by concerns regarding climate change and energy security, one in every three countries now generates a portion of its electricity from wind, with 13 countries each exceeding 1,000 megawatts of installed wind electricity-generating capacity." Wind power is key to achieving the Plan B goal of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. Some points of interest from his piece:
• 2007 was the first year in history that wind power additions in Europe exceeded the additions of any other power source, including natural gas. Wind-generated electricity now meets nearly 4 percent of Europe's electricity demand, enough to supply electricity to 90 million residents.
• Countrywide, Germany generates more than 7 percent of its electricity from the wind. In the northern states of Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Schleswig-Holstein, wind meets an impressive 30 percent of electricity needs.
• Spain installed 3,520 megawatts—the highest number ever in Europe in a single year. With wind energy supplying 10 percent of the country's electricity, Spain is second only to Denmark in terms of percentage of electricity generated this way.
• For the third consecutive year, the United States led the world in new installations, with its 5,240 megawatts accounting for one-quarter of global installations in 2007. The electrical output from these farms is equivalent to that from 16 coal-fired power plants and is enough to power 4.5 million U.S. homes.
• India installed 1,730 megawatts of new wind power capacity in 2007.
• China installed 3,450 megawatts of wind capacity in 2007, a 156-percent increase over 2006.
• Offshore wind capacity accounts for almost 1,170 megawatts worldwide, and is expected to more than double by the end of 2009.
Jonathan concludes by saying, "If the present 27 percent annual growth rate of installed wind power capacity is maintained, total capacity in 2020 will hit 2 million megawatts. With aggressive economic incentives, it could reach 3 million megawatts by that date—which would be 30 times as much as is available today."
Lester Brown is founder and director of the Earth Policy Institute and a regular contributor to TreeHugger. Learn more about alternative energy and solutions for a sustainable future in his previous columns or read a review of and download Plan B 3.0.