The global wind power industry reached an all-time high in 2020 in the size of facilities that came online, but investments must at least triple by 2030 to meet climate targets, GWEC has found. Developers finished wind parks with a total capacity of 93 GW last year, compared to the previous record of 63.8 GW from 2015, increasing the total to 742.7 GW.
The world needs to be installing wind power three times as fast over the next decade in order to be on track to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the Global Wind Energy Council said. On the bright side, wind farms with an overall 93 GW in capacity started to produce electricity in 2020, setting an annual record.
Year-on-year growth was a whopping 53% and the entire fleet of wind power plants reached 742.7 GW, also the highest point so far. The industry is relatively young and its expansion results in record levels every year, since only a small fraction of the total gets decommissioned due to reaching the end of the life cycle.
Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the size of new installations exceeded by far the previous all-time high, from 2015, when 63.8 GW came online. GWEC warned annual growth must be boosted to a minimum of 180 MW through 2030, which is roughly three times above current projections, to reach carbon neutrality. For the world to hold the rise in temperature well under two degrees Celsius by 2050, investors must add 280 GW every year after the end of the decade, according to the report.
Quadrupled within one decade
Through technology innovations and economies of scale, the global wind power market has nearly quadrupled in size over the past decade and established itself as one of the most cost-competitive and resilient power sources across the world, the Brussels-based organization said. It gathers investors, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, national associations and other groups, research institutes and financial institutions.
China retained the leading position as it built 55.9% of new capacity last year, followed by the United States, which had an 18.2% share. The two countries account for over half of the world’s total wind power capacity.
At the end of 2020, onshore wind power plants had a share of 95.25%, and the rest, 35.2 GW, was in offshore facilities. The onshore segment expanded by 86.9 GW or 59% more than in the previous year.
Growth in onshore wind power slows substantially
After a record 6.2 GW in 2019, the size of all new offshore wind power plants came in at 6.1 GW. However, the subsector is seen growing 31.5% per year through 2025 and adding more than 70 GW overall, compared to just 0.3% for onshore. The total rate is projected at 4%.
Due to the slow recovery in Germany last year, Europe saw only a 0.6% year-over-year growth in new onshore wind installations. According to GWEC, nearly 30 GW of new wind power capacity was awarded globally through auctions in the second half of 2020, after 28 GW in the same period of the previous year.
GWEC expects wind power plants of over 469 GW would be built through 2025.
Offshore has fastest expansion in renewables sector
Of note, the World Wind Energy Association published similar numbers. It measured a 51.8% growth in new installations in 2020, to 744 GW.
Research organization BloombergNEF earlier said global investment in renewable energy advanced 2% to USD 303.5 billion last year. The record was achieved in 2017, with USD 313.3 billion. Wind capacity investment slipped 6% to USD 142.7 billion, but the number spiked 56% for the offshore segment, reaching USD 50 billion, according to the report. It highlighted falling capital costs for both solar and wind.