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Wind: A Booming sector in a plunging economy

Despite the economic downturn, wind power has becomes Europe’s fastest growing energy source. More wind power was installed in Europe than any other electricity-generating technology in 2008, according to data released by the European Wind Energy Association.

EWEA figures show that wind power provided 43% of new capacity – or almost two gigawatts – compared with 35% for gas, 13% for oil, 4% for coal and 2% for hydro power.


The EWEA’s figures came as it emerged that the US overtook Germany last year – before Barack Obama took office with his “green” agenda – to become the world’s number one wind power installer.

Furthermore, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has announced that China, whose capacity doubled for the fourth year in a row, was set to reach second place by 2010 – meeting its 2020 target of 30GW 10 years ahead of schedule. On average, 20 wind turbines were installed for every working day of 2008. By the end of the year, a total of 160,000 workers were employed directly and indirectly in the sector, which saw investments of about €11 billion in the EU.

The EWEA’s figures come at a period of intense EU debate over the role of nuclear power, and there is also concern over the viability of plans to generate 20% of primary energy from renewables by 2020, the future of carbon emissions trading, and the security of gas supplies after the latest Russia-Ukraine dispute.

Christian Kjaer, the EWEA chief executive, told members of the press: “The figures show that wind energy is the undisputed number one choice in Europe’s efforts to move towards clean, indigenous renewable power.” On each average working day in Europe last year, 20 wind turbines were installed.

The increased wind power capacity, costing €11bn (£9.9bn), should produce 142 TWH (terawatt hours) of electricity or about 4.2% of EU demand and abate 100m tonnes of CO2 a year – equal to taking more than 50m cars off the continent’s roads.

Germany and Spain both installed more than 1.6GW while the UK added 836MW (megawatts) to reach 3.24GW. Ten of the EU’s 27 states have now got wind power capacity of more than 1GW.

Meanwhile, global capacity grew by 27GW to reach almost 121GW by the end of 2008, prompting Steve Sawyer, the head of GWEC, to claim that wind energy was the only technology capable of delivering the necessary CO2 cuts in the critical period up to 2020. Investments last year totalled €36.5bn.