The world’s wind power capacity grew by almost a fifth in 2019 after a year of record growth for offshore windfarms and a boom in onshore projects across the US and China.

The Global Wind Energy Council estimates that wind power capacity grew by 60.4 gigawatts (GW) last year, or 19% up from 2018, in one of the strongest years on record for the global wind power industry.

The growth was powered by a record year for offshore wind, which grew by 6.1GW in 2018 to make up a tenth of new wind farm installations for the first time.

The council’s annual report found that the US and China remain the world’s largest markets for onshore wind power development. Together the two countries make up almost two-thirds of global growth in wind power.

GWEC had expected 2020 to emerge as a record year for the rollout of wind energy projects, and forecast growth of 20% in the year ahead, but admitted the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic was still unknown.

Most of the energy the US uses comes from oil made into gasoline for vehicles. For electricity production, 35% is from natural gas, 27% is from coal, 19% is from nuclear and 17% is from renewable energy (hydropower, wind, biomass and solar), according to the Energy Information Administration. 

The virus outbreak could slow construction of energy projects in line with an economy-wide slowdown in manufacturing and infrastructure development, but the council believes Covid-19 could still present an opportunity for the wind industry.

The council said the outbreak could prove to be an economic watershed, and urged governments to use the growing industry to help galvanise economic recovery.

The call echoes a warning from the boss of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, that the virus could undermine progress in clean energy development unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown.

“We have an important window of opportunity,” Birol said. “Major economies around the world are preparing stimulus packages. A well-designed stimulus package could offer economic benefits and facilitate a turnover of energy capital which have huge benefits for the clean energy transition.”

Ben Backwell, the chief executive of GWEC, said global clean energy growth is not where it needs to be to help keep global temperatures in check as part of the Paris Climate Accord.

“If we are to have any chance at reaching our Paris agreement objectives and remaining on a 1.5°C pathway, we need to be installing at least 100GW of wind energy per year, and this needs to rise to 200GW per year and beyond,” he said.

The council had expected that global wind power installations would rise by 76% this year, but will offer a new forecast that takes the impact of the coronavirus into account in the second quarter of the year.

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