After years of expansion, the wind energy industry suffered a significant slowdown during the global economic recession of 2010 – and the boom years may still be behind us. But a study just released by Boulder, Colorado-based Pike Research (News - Alert) forecasts that total onshore- and offshore wind generation capacity will increase from 194.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010 to 562.9 GW by 2017, representing a $153 billion global industry.
Given the 18-month project cycle for a wind farm from feasibility study to electricity production, the global downturn had a delayed impact on the pace of new wind power installations, Pike reports. Wind power experienced strong cumulative growth in 2008 (29 percent) and 2009 (32 percent), due to the large volume of projects initiated in late 2006 through 2008. However, 2010 results (22 percent growth) reflect the impact of the recession on what is still one of the world’s most significant renewable energy markets.
Today, turbine deployment activity remains strong and overall capacity will continue to rise at a healthy, if not a hectic, pace.
“Despite the challenging market conditions for the wind energy industry, this is a dynamic time for innovation in the market,” said senior analyst Peter Asmus. “Equipment vendors are pushing turbines to sizes never before thought practical or economical. Some of the world’s top engineering challenges of the 21st century are taking place in factories longer than football fields. But there is also much at stake, as the companies push technological limits and take major market risks in an increasingly competitive sector.”
Asmus added that China’s leadership in wind energy deployment is both an opportunity and a challenge for European and American companies looking to compete in that market and internationally. Europe remains a technology leader and is exploring the next frontier of wind energy with offshore deployments. The United States is lagging in many respects, but most industry players are optimistic about the future, as costs continue to drop dramatically. In some markets, wind energy has already reached grid parity, a trend that Asmus says will continue to become more common around the world.
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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell