Sustainable Energy

Wind farms: Here's who's betting big

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Dougall_Photography | iStock | Getty Images

Poland has ramped up its investment in alternative energy, installing almost 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of wind power in 2015 – the largest installation of wind power in Europe after Germany – according to new data from the European Wind Energy Agency (EWEA).

"We saw strong performance in Poland in 2015," Oliver Joy, spokesperson for the EWEA, told CNBC via email.

The increase in Poland – compared to just 444 megawatts installed in 2014 – was mainly down to an expected change in support schemes for renewables, and the move to an auctioning system.

"We would call (this) a market-based system, so essentially where projects or developers will have to bid to secure… support for their projects," he said.

"It's the… uncertainty that comes with the change that means that some developers may have accelerated deployment last year to ensure they could stay with the support scheme that they already know."

Poland's total installed wind capacity now stands at 5.1 GW. Joy commented that Poland had excellent wind resources both onshore and offshore.

"With renewable and wind energy, Poland has the potential to be a center-piece of Europe's energy security drive but the right policies must be in place," he said.

In Europe as a whole, Germany is still leading the way when it comes to wind energy. Nearly half of new installations took place in the country. Germany's wind power capacity stood at 45 GW at the end of 2015.

Big bucks

Financially, 2015 saw annual investments in wind energy reach 26.4 billion euros ($29.48 billion), a 40 percent increase on the previous year.

"The bumper year for offshore wind and strong growth in Germany are the notable drivers behind a record year for wind power," Joy said.

However, he added that the prospects for the alternative energy industry were not looking as rosy thanks to a lack of a clear policy roadmap for the years ahead.

"The EU has a binding target to generate 27 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2030 but only 6 of the 28 member states already have targets beyond the end of this decade," he said.

European institutions and member states needed to work together to put ambitious legislation in place "as soon as possible", Joy added.

Wind energy is becoming increasingly important in Europe. Only last week the U.K. government announced that the world's largest offshore wind farm – which will have a capacity of 1.2 GW – is set to be built off the north coast of England.

"This project means secure, clean energy for the country, jobs and financial security for working people and their families," energy secretary Amber Rudd said in a news release.