Wind energy

Off shore wind farm

Maintaining rapid growth

Wind power generating capacity grew by 18.9% in 2012, with capacity increasing by a record 45 GW to reach 284 GW by the end of 2012. The trend rate of capacity growth over the past 10 years is nearly 25% pa, which implies a doubling of capacity every three years. Wind power now generates 521 TWh of electricity, 2.3% of total world electricity generation. That is equivalent to the total power generation of South Korea.

China leads the world in terms of cumulative installed wind capacity (75.4 GW), but in 2012 the US recorded the largest additions of new wind capacity (13.1 GW).

Led by Germany and Spain, Europe remains the largest regional market in terms of total installed wind power capacity (109.6 GW, or 38.5% of the world total). However both Asia-Pacific, led by China and India, and North America have been growing faster than Europe over the past five years. Asia-Pacific’s share of installed wind capacity has doubled since 2007, reaching 35.6% by the end of 2012, and North America’s share has reached 29.3%.


Wind is becoming an important contributor to European electricity generation. In Denmark wind power provided 34.1% of power generation in 2012. The share of wind power now exceeds 15% in Spain (Europe’s largest wind power producer), Portugal and Ireland.  In Germany wind penetration stands at 7.4%.  Wind has a much smaller share in the US – it contributes 3.3% of power generation.

Government support remains the single most important factor behind the fast growth of wind generation. Future growth is also dependent on further technological advances in offshore wind. This segment of the wind market is led by the UK, where offshore wind capacity reached 3 GW by the end of 2012.

The growing share of wind power in the electricity mix also presents unique operational challenges to grid operators. Because of the unreliability of wind power (reflected in a low, ~25% utilisation factor), adding more wind generation capacity to the grid increases the need to boost the percentage of overall plant capacity set aside to provide ancillary services. Power generation from wind turbines in Germany and Ireland actually fell in 2012, despite continued growth in capacity, due to lower wind speeds.