The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) announced that global wind-energy installations increased by 35.8 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Wind farm capacity increased to 194.4 GW, a 22.5 percent increase from the end of 2009.

In 2010, more than half of all new wind power was added outside of the traditional markets in Europe and North America for the first time. This was mainly driven by the continuing boom in China, which accounted for nearly half of the new wind installations (16.5 GW).

“China now has 42.3 GW of wind power and has surpassed the United States in terms of total installed capacity,” said Li Junfeng, secretary general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA). “This puts China firmly on a path to reach 200 GW of installed wind power by 2020. At the same time, China has become the world’s largest producer of wind-energy equipment.”

Other developing countries also expanded their wind capacity, including India (2.1 GW), Brazil (326 MW) and Mexico (316 MW).

“Wind power is now rapidly expanding beyond the traditional ‘rich country’ markets, a clear sign of its growing competitiveness,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary general.

Overall, however, the annual 2010 wind market was down for the first time in 20 years, shrinking by 7 percent from 38.6 GW in 2009, mainly due to a disappointing year in the United States. This was a result of the financial crisis, low levels of wind turbine orders working their way through the system, a depressed electricity demand, and policy uncertainty in the United States.

The United States, traditionally one of the strongest wind markets, experienced an annual drop in installations by 50 percent (from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW in 2010).

In Europe also, new installed capacity in 2010 (9.9 GW) was 7.5 percent down from 2009 (10.7 GW), despite a 50 percent growth of the offshore market in countries, such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Belgium, and in new developments in Eastern Europe, mainly in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.

“2010 was a tough year for most industries, and wind power was no exception,” Sawyer said. “2011 will be better. Orders picked up again in the second half of 2010, and investments in the sector continue to increase.”