2012 proved to be a good year for wind power in the 27-nation European Union (EU), as installed wind power generation capacity rose 12.3 percent to surpass the 100-gigawatt (GW) mark. Rated EU wind power capacity totaled 105.6 GW as of year-end 2012, as 11,840 megawatts (MW) of new capacity came online, according to EurObserv'ER's 2012 Wind Power Barometer. Factoring in wind turbine installations taken out of service, a net 11,593 MW of new wind power generation was added to the EU's energy mix last year.
Just over 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) -- 200 million megawatt-hours (MWh) -- of clean, renewable electrical energy was produced by wind turbines in the EU in 2012, up from 178.9 TWh in 2011. With the average EU resident consuming an estimated 4 MW-h per year, that's enough to supply some 50 million EU households with electricity.
Wind power's rising share of the EU energy mix
On a per capita basis, there was 209.7 kilowatts (kW) per thousand EU inhabitants as of year-end 2012. Among individual EU countries, Denmark is far and away the leader in terms of wind power generation capacity as a share of the overall national energy mix with 745.8 kW per 1,000 inhabitants. Spain (408.8 kW/1,000 inhabitants), and Portugal (429.2 kW/1,000) followed, while wind power also makes up relatively high percentages of the energy mix in Sweden, Germany and Ireland on a per capita basis, EurObserv'ER highlighted in a press release.
Offshore wind power generation capacity surged more than 32 percent higher in 2012, increasing to 4,705.8 MW in 2012 from 2011's year-end total of 3,549 MW. The U.K. (2,679 MW), Denmark (922 MW), Belgium (380 MW), Germany (280 MW), the Netherlands (228 MW), Sweden (163 MW), Finland (26 MW), Ireland (25 MW) and Portugal (2 MW) are now all generating clean, renewable electrical power from offshore wind turbines.
Installed wind power capacity totaled 281.1 GW on a global basis as of year-end 2012, according to EurObserv'ER's report, up from 237.2 GW in 2011, an 18.5 percent gain, with new wind power capacity installations hitting a record-high in the U.S. as wind power project developers rushed to add capacity ahead of the expiration of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which wound up being extended as part of a compromise federal budget package.
Looking at shares of the global wind turbine market in 2012, China had a 35.6 percent market share, North America 31.8% and Europe 28.7 percent, according to EurObserv'ER's 2012 annual report.
Image credit: Vattenfall, courtesy flickr