US Wind Energy Makes Substantial Rebound in 2014

renewable energy
Brazos Wind Farm in Texas. By Leaflet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

America’s wind installations grew six-fold in 2014, making the United States the world’s second-largest wind energy market behind China, according to new figures from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

US installations reached 4.7GW, thanks to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in January 2013. The extension allowed projects to qualify by starting construction before the deadline.

While the US returned to growth, China continued its pattern of record-setting installations up 38% from 2013. In 2014, China installed 20.7GW – over four times more than the US – and more than 40% of all new capacity worldwide. For perspective, China has been the world’s largest wind market for six years, since overtaking the US. China now has 96GW of grid-connected wind energy capacity, or more capacity than the entire power fleet of the United Kingdom. Wind energy is the country’s third-largest power source behind coal and hydropower, and ahead of nuclear.

China’s banner year was the result of a policy-driven rush to build, as onshore tariffs are expected to lower this year. The top five Chinese turbine manufacturers Goldwind, Guodian United Power, Envision, Ming Yang, and Sewind led the market with a combined 12.4GW, or 60% of total installed capacity.

“2014 was a boom year for China’s wind industry, thanks to developers rushing to complete projects ahead of the looming feed-in-tariff cut,” said Yiyi Zhou, China wind analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Most of the new build in 2014 came from domestic wind turbine suppliers, while foreign manufacturers took less than 2% of the market.”

China was not the only record-setting country for installations. Germany (3.2GW), Brazil (2.9GW) and India (2.3GW) round out the top five markets along with the US; both German and Brazil totals are records for their countries.

Policy drove Germany’s record year, as developers rushed to take advantage of the grace period of the outgoing support system, after a new mechanism and stricter regulations were announced last year.
“This year has seen a couple of special circumstances come together, so it probably isn’t a blueprint for future development” said David Hostert, European wind analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “What is remarkable though is that more than 1GW was repowered with new turbines on existing projects. This means making better use of existing wind sites and opening up new opportunities for developers and asset owners in a mature market.”

Brazil’s record 2.9GW of installations was more than five times its previous high of 0.5GW, in 2011. Increased transmission access aided the market, allowing nearly 1GW of capacity built in previous years to be connected to the grid last year.