2012 was a record year for the wind industry.
Last year, wind farms added 44.7 gigawatts of electricity production worldwide — the largest single-year global wind capacity addition ever — and annual market growth was up 10 percent, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
China and the United States led the way, in a virtual tie, as China added 13.2 gigawatts and the U.S. added 13.1 gigawatts, as China’s wind market slowed and U.S. industry added 8 GW as a key tax credit was due to expire at the end of 2012 (it was extended, however, at the last minute).
“While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years”, said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, said in a statement. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind.”
There are now 282.5 GW of wind capacity worldwide. The European Union represents 37.5 percent of that total (with Germany leading the way with 31GW), followed by China (75.5 GW) and the U.S. (60 GW).
Here’s a look the annual and total growth of global wind capacity since 1996:
While Asia, North America, and Europe are leading the way in wind capacity, 2013 could see some growth in emerging markets. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, Ethiopia installed its first commercial wind farm, a 52 MW project.
“This is just the beginning of the African market,”, said Sawyer, “and with construction started on 500+ MW in South Africa, we expect Africa to be a substantial new market, where clean, competitive energy generated with indigenous sources is a priority for economic development.”
According to calculations by AFP, there were approximately 22,350 wind turbines installed last year.