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China and US lead way with wind power installations, says global energy report

Pascal Guyot | AFP | Getty Images

Last year saw 54.6 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity installed across the planet, with global installed capacity now standing at almost 487 GW, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

China installed 23.4 GW of new capacity, a 42.7 percent share of the market. A distant second to China in terms of new capacity was the U.S., where 8.2 GW was installed.

The potential of wind power in China is significant. Last June, an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) study said that wind power could – if certain adjustments were made – supply 26 percent of China's "projected electricity demand" by the year 2030.

In the U.S., wind energy provided 4.7 percent of the entire electricity generated in 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

While China, the U.S., Germany and India continued to show a strong appetite for wind, the 54.6 GW of new capacity added in 2016 was still less than the 63.6 GW added in 2015, the GWEC said.

"Wind power continues to grow in double digits; but we can't expect the industry to set a new record every single year," Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General, said in a statement at the end of last week.

"Chinese installations were an impressive 23,328 MW (23.3 GW), although this was less than 2015's spectacular 30 GW, which was driven by impending feed-in tariff reductions," Sawyer added.

"Also, Chinese electricity demand growth is slackening, and the grid is unable to handle the volume of new wind capacity additions," he said, adding that the market was expected to pick up again this year.

The GWEC said that Europe had experienced "a surprisingly strong year, given the policy uncertainty which plagues the region."

Last week, industry body WindEurope said that 12.5 GW of capacity was added across the European Union, three percent less than installations in 2015.

Back at the GWEC, Sawyer commented that the cost of wind power was continuing to "plummet" and noted that Europe's offshore sector had "met and exceeded its 2020 price targets by a substantial margin, and five years early."

The industry was, overall, "in pretty good shape" Sawyer went on to state.