US and China are leading the race on adding new installed wind power capacity with the addition of 8,358 MW and 6,300 MW by the two countries respectively.
The global wind energy capacity grew by 28.8 per cent last year, higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total global installations of more than 120,800 MW (120.8 GW) at the end of 2008 with the US and China in the lead.
Over 27,000 MW or 27 GW of new wind power generation capacity came online in 2008, up 36 per cent from 2007.
Wind energy is the only power generation technology that can deliver the necessary cuts in CO2 in the critical period up to 2020, when greenhouse cases must peak and begin to decline to avoid dangerous climate change and the 120 GW of global wind capacity in place at the end of 2008 will produce 260 TWh and save 158 million tons of CO2 every year.''
Wind energy is now an important player in the world's energy markets, the global market for wind turbine installations in 2008 was estimated at Ä36.5 billion or $47.5 billion.
''Wind power is often the most attractive option for new power generation in both economic terms and in terms of increasing energy security, not to mention the environmental and economic development benefits. Volatile fossil fuel prices and unreliable supply policies from fossil fuel rich countries increase the risk of relying on conventional sources for power production,'' said Global Wind Energy Council's (GWEC) chairman, Prof Arthouros Zervos.
''The wind industry also creates many new jobs: over 400,000 people are now employed in this industry, and that number will be in the millions in the near future,'' he added.
The leading markets in terms of new installed capacity in 2008 were the US and China with new US wind energy installations totalled 8,358 MW for a total installed capacity of 25,170 MW.
The US has now officially overtaken Germany (23,902 MW) as the top wind power producer while Europe and North America are running neck-to-neck, with about 8,900 MW (8.9 GW) each of new installed capacity in 2008, with Asia closely following with 8,600 MW (8.6 GW).
The massive growth in the US wind market in 2008 increased the nation's total wind power generating capacity by 50 per cent. The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42 per cent of the entire new power-producing capacity added in the US last year, and created 35,000 new jobs, taking it to a total of 85,000 in the sector in the US.
However, financing for new projects and new orders for turbines and components slowed to a trickle last year, as the financial crisis began to hit the wind sector.
China doubles installed capacity
The growth in Asia's markets has also been breathtaking; close to a third of all new capacity in 2008 was installed on the Asian continent. In particular, the wind energy boom is continuing in China, which once again doubled its installed capacity by adding about 6,300 MW (6.3 GW), reaching a total of 12,200 MW (12.2 GW).
''The Chinese wind energy market is going from strength to strength, and has once again doubled in size compared to 2007, reaching over 12 GW of total installed capacity,'' said Shi Pengfei, vice president of the Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA). ''The outlook for the coming years is also very healthy.''
In its response to the financial crisis, the Chinese government has identified the development of wind energy as one of the key economic growth areas. ''In 2009, new installed capacity is expected to nearly double again, which will be one third or more of the world's total new installed capacity for the year,'' said Li Junfeng, secretary general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).
At this rate, China would be well on its way to overtake Germany and Spain to reach second place in terms of total wind power capacity in 2010. China would then have met its 2020 target of 30,000 MW (30 GW), ten years ahead of time.
The growing wind power market in China has also encouraged domestic production of wind turbines and components, and the Chinese manufacturing industry is becoming increasingly mature, stretching over the whole supply chain.
''Now, the supply is starting to not only satisfy domestic demand, but also meet international needs, especially for components,'' said Li Junfeng. ''In 2009, Chinese companies will start to enter the UK and Japanese markets, and orders for 200 blades have already been placed. There are also ambitions for exploring the US market in the coming years.''
Wind power emerges tops new generation capacity in Europe
In Europe, almost 8,900 MW (8.9.GW) worth of new wind turbines brought total wind power generation capacity up to nearly 66,000 MW (66 GW). This makes wind power the leading power source for new generation capacity, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
While in the past, European growth was primarily spurred by the established markets in Germany, Spain and Denmark, 2008 saw a much more balanced expansion, led by France, the UK and Italy.
''The European figures show that wind energy is the undisputed number one choice in Europe's efforts to move towards clean, indigenous renewable power'', said Christian Kjaer, CEO of EWEA.
''Wind energy is an example of an intelligent investment that puts EU citizens' money to work in their own economies rather than transferring it to a handful of fuel-exporting nations'', commented Kjaer.
''We're on track to meeting our target of saving 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2020'', concluded Steve Sawyer, ''but we need a strong, global signal from governments that they are serious about moving away from fossil fuels and protecting the climate'', he added.