Gone are the days when the thought of wind power in some far-off land was strictly a quaint endeavor. Tourists will always have their photo ops of rustic windmills on the farm in Holland or rural Kansas, for that matter. But these days the windmills aren’t just pumping water or oil, and what they are generating is expanding on a scale of global proportions.

According to statistics from the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), global wind energy grew by more than 40 gigawatts (GW) in 2012, reaching a total installed capacity of more than 280 GW. That’s an annual increase of more than 16 percent.

In a joint report released with Greenpeace International last fall, GWEC proposes various scenarios for growth in the industry, which vary according to worldwide policy trends. The scenarios suggest that the installed capacity of global wind energy could reach anywhere from 587 GW to 1,100 GW by 2020.

Exponential growth is the operative phrase, as even the most conservative of these estimates projects a doubling of capacity in the next decade.

Coincidentally, this surge in growth is led by a country more commonly associated with less-green energy policies. China is the world’s wind-power leader. It installed roughly 13,000 megawatts of capacity in 2012, bringing the country’s total to 75 GW, one quarter of global capacity.

The United States is a close second to China with 60 GW of wind capacity currently installed. Last year was a banner year in the United States, with 13 GW installed, more than any other technology.

China and the United States are not the only nations with a burgeoning wind- power industry. EPI notes growing, if not yet large, wind-power industries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. It highlights Denmark for having the highest proportion of power from wind. Currently, that number stands at 30 percent with a target of 50 percent by 2020.