A trade association that represents wind power interests in Europe today announced a near record number of installations for 2011 and revealed that wind sources surged to over 20 percent of Europe's new energy capacity.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says that 9,616 megawatts (MW) of capacity was installed in 2011, with installations remaining consistent over the previous year, although, still slightly lower than 2009's levels. The trend over the past decade is positive.
The United States, in comparison, saw its installations increase to over 6,810 MW of wind power in 2011. Europe owes its edge to member states' energy policies and the European Union's advocacy of renewables.
Germany's denuclearization trend and generous subsidies in the United Kingdom fueled high demand in both countries, which represented the two largest blocks of new installations. Spain and Italy trailed closely, followed by France.
The new wind energy capacity was nearly equivalent to natural gas power plants, eclipsing coal, nuclear, and other renewables - with the exception of solar power. Over 21,000 MW of photovoltaics were installed across the continent last year.
"Despite the economic crisis gripping Europe, the wind industry is still installing solid levels of new capacity", commented Justin Wilkes, policy director of EWEA.
Wilkes called for stable government policies supporting renewables in order to attract private investment, and for the European Union to commit to a binding renewable energy target for 2030.
The EWEA might not get its wish, because the politics is fluid amid Europe's austerity regimes. UK conservatives launched an assault on wind power subsidies this month, and Germany has revealed its intention to gradually reduce its subsidies.
(Image credits: EWEA)