Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Global Wind Revolution Hits 240,000 Megawatts and To Double Again

The rise of the global wind industry to incredible heights is an amazing story that is still unfolding. In 1984 a total of 300 megawatts of wind power were installed in the entire world.  Nothing really.  Yet, by the end of 2011, the world will have about 240,000 megawatts operating, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and IEA data.

Moreover Pike Research is predicting that wind power will more than double again in the next
10 years, reaching globally more than 560,000 megawatts. The USA currently has a bit more than 1 million megawatts of all types of electric generation and between a fifth and a quarter of the world's electric generation. Wind generation of 560,000 megawatts would be an extraordinary electric generation revolution completed in about 40 years.

The USA will account for 50,000 megawatts of wind power within the next few months or about 20% of the world's total. In the next decade, where will the US winds blow?

Continued improvements in wind turbine productivity and more declines in costs mean the odds are also good that the USA will have about 100,000 megawatts of wind power operating by 2021. Achieving the 100,000 megawatt mark in the USA is certain if the production tax credit is
renewed and less certain if it is not.

Wind remains the most competitive renewable energy resource, with the exception of the limited amounts of landfill gas that remain to be developed. Indeed, wind turbines can produce electricity at costs equal to natural gas plants in high wind areas or when gas is around $5 to $6 per thousand cubic feet. Consequently wind will provide most of the electricity required to meet state level renewable energy standards over the next 10 years.

Wind will increasingly be deployed with natural gas and storage technologies in the USA to manage intermittency, as wind generation exceeds 5% of generation in more and more electricity control areas. Wind power is now a reasonably priced, zero carbon, zero air pollution, zero water consumption source of electricity that has a very bright future in a world that one day will need solutions to global warming and water constraints.


  1. John I am curious about a US Dept of Energy report several years ago that described a path for the US to get 20% of its electricity from wind power by the year 2030. It states that we will need 300,000 megawatts of windpower to achieve a 20% portion of electrical generation from wind. Given that wind turbine efficiencies and capacity factors for wind turbines are ever improving, do you think that 300,000 megawatt estimate should be lowered?

  2. John thanks for this information on wind power a subject that I am very interested in. The growth of wind power is amazing as you mention 300 megawatts in 1984 to 240,000 today. What is even more amazing is that 200,000 megawatts of that growth has been in the last 8 years. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power

  3. The 300,000 megawatts of wind to provide 20% of electricity in US remains about right. The newer turbines will have higher capacity factors so it might be a bit lower. You are also right that the revolution has really hit in the last 9 or even 5 or 3 years. US wind was at 25,000 megawatts in 2008 and will be at 50,000 megawatts by the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011.

  4. I think you mean will be at 50,000 megawatts at the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012.

  5. The other consideration is what will be the rise in demand for electricity vs the decreased demand for electricity (via conservation and efficiency measures) by the year 2030 which will have an effect on whether 300,000 megawatts will be enough. Could Pennsylvania's electricity consumption stay flat like California or will our demand for electricity grow from now till 2030?