The wind industry added more than 52 gigawatts of power in 2017, and China led the way

Keren Su | China Span | Getty Images

The wind industry added over 52 gigawatts (GW) of wind power last year, according to a report from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

While that figure represents a decrease compared to 2016, when 54.6 GW was installed, the GWEC said it expected the annual market to return to growth in 2019 and 2020.

China maintained its position as a wind energy powerhouse, installing 19.7 GW, while the European Union added 15.6 GW of capacity, its best ever year. The U.S. installed a little over 7 GW of capacity.

Steve Sawyer, the secretary general of the GWEC, said in a statement Wednesday that wind power was "leading the charge in the transition away from fossil fuels."

"Both onshore and offshore, wind power is key to defining a sustainable energy future," Sawyer added.

In terms of cumulative capacity, the GWEC said this had reached 539 GW by the end of 2017, an increase of 11 percent compared to the previous year.

Looking ahead, the GWEC said the wind sector would return to "dramatic growth" in 2019, with cumulative capacity set to reach 840 GW by 2022.

"We have a booming new market in Argentina, a return to form in South Africa, Mexico on the verge of dramatic growth, and a powerhouse building in India," Sawyer said. "We see huge potential just beginning to be realized in Russia, Vietnam and even Saudi Arabia."

He added that offshore was "spreading like wildfire across the globe" as a result of Europe's patient and pioneering efforts to "bring the technology to cost-competitiveness."

The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to recent research.

The "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018" report, published by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, also found that found that China invested the largest amount of money in renewables last year, at $126.6 billion. This represented a 31 percent increase compared to 2016.

Around the world, 157 GW of renewable power was commissioned last year.