Americans can once again pride themselves on setting an example for the rest of the world. In the race to save the planet by producing more power from clean, renewable sources, the United States has taken a commanding lead. Last year, the United States officially surpassed Germany as the world’s number one producer of wind power.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, new U.S. wind energy installations totaled 8,358 MW. That increased the total wind power generating capacity by 50 percent to a total installed capacity of 25,170 MW.

Wind power also is accounting for a notable chunk of new power generating capacity installed across all industries. Last year, the new wind projects accounted for about 42 percent of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationwide.

Wind power’s success was not limited to the United States. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, more than 27,000 MW (27 GW) of new wind power generation capacity came online across the globe. That’s 36 percent more power than came online in 2007 and a 28.8 percent increase overall. Total global installations now stand at more than 120,800 MW.

While the United States took the top spot, other nations continue to challenge its lead. For example, China doubled its installed capacity for the fourth year in a row by adding about 6,300 MW, reaching a total of 12,200 MW. China and other Asian nations combined accounted for close to a third of all new capacity in 2008.

In Europe, almost 8,900 MW worth of new wind turbines brought total wind power generation capacity up to nearly 66,000 MW. This makes wind power the leading power source for new generation capacity there, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The trend is spreading. While in the past, European growth was primarily spurred by established markets in Germany, Spain and Denmark, 2008 saw expansion led by other nations, including France, the United Kingdom and Italy.