China is still leading the charge in the wind energy industry, outpacing by far the US, Germany, India and Spain.
Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) secretary-general Steve Sawyer, said the last two years in the global wind energy industry had seen substantial growth, after a flat period between 2009 and 2013.
He told the annual Windaba in Cape Town that there was spectacular growth of 22% in 2015, but this was expected to ease in 2016.
“Wind supplied more than half of global power generation in 2015 – more than any other technology,” said Sawyer.
China scooped a 33.6% share of the global market. Its total installed capacity has now surpassed capacity throughout Europe. However, Sawyer noted that while China was a world leader in wind and solar, it was also a world leader in the development of its coal industry.
The US is a "distant" second, with a 17.2% share of the global market, followed by Germany, which makes up just over 10%. India has surpassed Spain, where the wind energy market has been "pretty dead" over the past two years, with India clinching 5.8% market share.
Sawyer said the US had a particularly good year in 2015, with Turkey also entering the top ten list.
New markets were opening up all over Latin America, with investment in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay and "stirrings" in Colombia.
In Africa, new markets were also opening up, with more wind energy projects in Tunisia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa.
The GWEC expects to see 800 GW total cumulative capacity this year. In the longer term, the council is cautiously anticipating cumulative wind power capacity to be between 8% and 10% of global electricity by the end of this decade and 20% by the end of 2030.
Wind energy accounts for 4% of global electricity supply at this stage, but should reach between 6% and 8% by 2020.
Sawyer expects costs to continue to decline, with prices for the offshore sector in particular dropping in the past year.
The industry has created 1.1-million jobs so far, with forecasts of 1.6-million by the end of this decade.
“Technology evolution continues incrementally, but not spectacularly, except perhaps in offshore,” said Sawyer. He said impressive 8.4 MW machines with 164 m rotors were being used offshore.
More than 3 GW of wind energy have been procured for South Africa through the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
South Africa currently has 18 wind energy developments equalling 1 384 MW. More than 550 wind turbines produce this electricity.
The price of wind energy in round four of the REIPPPP was 62c/kWh, much cheaper than the forecast prices for Eskom’s new-build coal plants, Kusile and Medupi.
Sawea says more than 80% of South Africa’s land mass has the wind conditions to produce high load factors.