But while 2017 saw a healthy level of new installations, most of this was in just five countries and driven by pending changes to procurement mechanisms.
New installations topped the 50GW mark for the third year running in 2017. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 52.6GW was installed last year, taking worldwide capacity to 539.6GW.
Activity was largely concentrated in five countries — China, the US, Germany, the UK and India — which accounted for 41.5GW, or 78.9% of the total.
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New build in China dipped below 20GW for the first time since 2013, but the 19.5GW installed last year drove cumulative capacity to 188.2GW, more than one third of the global total. High rates of curtailment remain a problem, but there are signs that the drive for quality over quantity is beginning to bear fruit. According to the National Energy Administration, 41.9TWh of wind energy was wasted in 2017, down from 49.7TWh in 2016.
Installation has begun to slow markedly in India as the domestic wind industry adapts to the shift from feed-in tariffs to competitive tendering. But a record 4.15GW was added last year, taking total capacity to 32.8GW and cementing its position as the world’s fourth largest wind market behind China, the US, and Germany. Business was quiet in the rest of the region. Australia’s pipeline is starting to look better, with individual states showing more interest than the federal government in wind power, but only 245MW was added last year.
The wind sector remains in the doldrums in Japan, with just 177MW of new capacity in 2017. Pakistan is growing more quickly, but from a very low base. The 200MW installed in 2017 lifted its total wind capacity to 792MW.
Germany continues to stretch its lead over Europe’s other wind-power-producing countries, adding 6.6GW in 2017, 1.25GW of this offshore, for a total of 56.3GW. Whether the country can maintain this pace as it moves towards an auction system remains to be seen. It was a bumper year for wind power in the UK, with nearly 4.3GW added to the grid (1.7GW offshore), nearly six times the capacity installed in 2016. But the numbers reflect the pipeline of projects that were permitted before the government announced the withdrawal of all forms of support for onshore wind in 2015. We can expect a steep fall in new installations in the coming years.
France was the only other European country to install more than 1GW in 2017, adding 1.7GW, slightly up on last year. Elsewhere, the numbers were generally down from 2016, with three of what had been fast-growing markets all showing sharp declines: Poland installed only 41MW, Romania just 5MW, and Turkey’s 766MW was roughly half of its new build capacity the year before
Growth remained healthy in the US during 2017 as developers pushed ahead to take full advantage of the production tax credit scheme, now being phased out. Just over 7GW was installed, slightly down on 2016’s 8.2GW, with total capacity now topping just over 89GW.
The well-established wind-power states — Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Califonia and Kansas — contributed the lion’s share, but other states are expanding rapidly as new turbine technology opens up opportunities in regions with lower wind speeds. North Carolina entered the sector last year, installing its first 208MW. Missouri added 300MW, pushing total capacity to 959MW.
A more renewables-friendly federal administration in Canada has yet to show any impact on wind-power growth. Only 341MW was added in 2017, well down on 2016’s 702MW and 2015’s 1,545MW.
Growth across the region fell from 3.6GW in 2016 to 3.1GW last year. Brazil, despite severe economic difficulties, installed just over 2GW, almost exactly the same as in the previous year, although GWEC describes this figure as provisional. Cumulative capacity now stands at nearly 12.8GW.
Mexico added 478MW, slightly up on 2016’s 454MW, and just enough to push total capacity over 4GW. Chile showed the largest drop in new installations, adding only 116MW last year, compared with 513MW in 2016. Uruguay was also down, from 365MW in 2016 to 295MW.
Argentina is touted as a market set for strong growth in the coming years, but the industry has yet to really get going. Only 24MW was installed last year.
Middle East & Africa
The region’s performance in 2017 was disappointing. Only 646MW was installed, a very small improvement on the previous year’s total of 605MW, taking total capacity to 4.7GW. South Africa’s long-awaited wind boom spent another year on hold as state utility Eskom refrained from signing power purchase agreements for nearly 1.4GW of wind projects.
Despite that logjam, which now appears to have been largely resolved, South Africa installed 621MW of new capacity last year, or 95% of the region’s total. Egypt has a target of 7GW of wind power by 2022, which looks completely unrealistic at this stage. No new capacity was added last year.
Development in Morocco is also proceeding rather slower than predicted, although installations are expected to pick up over the next few years. Siemens Gamesa, which claims 70% of Morocco’s 787MW wind capacity, opened a new blade manufacturing facility in the country late in 2017.
There was no new build in any of the region’s other wind-producing countries — Ethiopia, Tunisia, Kenya and Jordan.
The sector showed good growth in 2017, with a little over 4.3GW of new installations, nearly twice that of the previous year. But just three countries — the UK, Germany and China — accounted for 95% of that figure.
The UK led the way with nearly 1.7GW added, and now has nearly 5.2GW of operating offshore capacity. Germany installed more than 1.2GW for a total of 4.1GW. China showed the sharpest rise, adding 1,161MW last year, for a total of just under 2.8GW. According to GWEC, there are now 17 countries with offshore wind capacity, although some, such as Spain and France, have only single test turbines in operation.
Taiwan entered the sector last year with a pilot 8MW project and has ambitious plans for the future. Offshore capacity in the US remains limited to the 30MW Block Island project, but several states on the east coast are pushing ahead with new developments, even if no new capacity can be expected for another couple of years.
Worldwide offshore wind capacity has now passed 18GW, around 3.5% of the global wind power total.
Winners and losers in transitional times
More than 50GW of new capacity was once again installed as developers raced to build projects before new auction systems took hold and support is phased out. But as the experience of falling orders in India has shown, prospects for the next couple of years look less encouraging