How much of the world’s electricity supply is generated from wind and who are the leading generators?

June 16, 2010

As reported by EIA’s Energy in Brief

Worldwide wind power generation exceeded 200 billion kilowatthours in 2008, which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of over 18 million average households in the United States. Wind generation increased by about 25% from 2007 to 2008, and has more than tripled since 2003. This growth is mostly due to capacity increases in the United States, China, India, and Western Europe. Despite this growth, the world still generated less than 1% of its total electricity from wind power in 2008.

Line chart showing the increase in wind electricity generation by region from 1980 - 2008. Source: Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics

Pie chart showing the contribution to global wind generation in 2008. United States 25.1%; Germany 18.5%; Spain 14.5%; India 7.2%, China 6.2%, United Kingdom 3.3%; Denmark 3.2%; Italy 3.0%; France 2.6%; Portugal 2.6% and Rest of World 13.9%. Source: Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics

Bar graph showing the share of total electricity generation from wind in 2008. United States 1.3%; Germany 6.5%; Ireland 8.6%; Spain 10.4%; Portugal 12.6% and Denmark 19.2%. Source: Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics

Did You Know?

A feed-in tariff is a financial incentive that encourages the adoption of renewable electricity. Under a feed-in tariff, government legislation requires electric utilities to purchase renewable electricity at a higher price than the wholesale price. This incentive allows the renewable generator to achieve a positive return on its investment despite the higher costs associated with these resources.

Did You Know?

Because the wind does not blow 24 hours a day and because the timing of it cannot be controlled, electricity from wind is not available on demand. Although wind makes up a significant portion of Denmark’s generation capacity, the intermittent nature of wind has been mitigated by the connection of the Danish electrical grid to the grids of Germany, Sweden, and Norway. These interconnections allow Denmark to export electricity when wind power generation exceeds demand and import electricity when there is not enough wind.

The United States Generated the Most Wind Electricity in 2008

Overtaking the previous leader Germany, the United States led all other countries in wind power generation in 2008. The remaining top-ten wind power generators, listed in descending order, were Spain, India, China, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and France. Although about 60 countries reported significant wind power generation in 2008, these top-ten countries accounted for more than 85% of all wind generation worldwide. Wind generation in China has grown an average of 70% annually since 2003, in spite of delays in bringing some of its new capacity online.

Denmark Generates the Highest Percentage of its Electricity Supply from Wind

Nearly 20% of Denmark’s electricity generation came from wind in 2008. The next highest levels of wind penetration are found in Portugal at 13%, Spain at 10%, Ireland at 9%, and Germany at 7%. No other country surpassed 5% penetration, including the United States, which generated over 1% of its electricity from wind in 2008.

Less than 2% of Global Wind Capacity is Offshore

According to the World and European Wind Energy Associations, installed global wind capacity reached 159,000 megawatts by the end of 2009, with only about 2,000 MW of that total located offshore. Offshore development lags behind onshore generally due to higher costs and technology constraints. Western Europe is home to nearly all existing offshore capacity — although prototype turbines for China’s first offshore farm were connected to the grid in 2009. As of June 2010, there are no operating offshore wind farms in the United States, although the 420-megawatt Cape Wind offshore project off the Massachusetts coast had secured local, State, and Federal approval as of April 2010.

Wind Power Generation is Expected to Continue Growing

Over the lifetime of the plant, electricity from wind power generally costs more than electricity from power plants burning fossil fuels.1 However, wind power is expected to continue to grow worldwide because of favorable government policies. Multiple types of government support exist, including a production tax credit and State renewable electricity portfolio standards in the United States, a feed-in tariff (see the “Did You Know” box on the left) in Germany, and wind capacity targets in China. According to EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2010, wind generation is expected to account for more than 3% of total world electricity by 2020.

2 Responses to “How much of the world’s electricity supply is generated from wind and who are the leading generators?”

  1. Other said

    Modern wind farms which consist of turbines that generate electricity, are now fairly common sights. Other

  2. The building of the Palomar Energy Project in San Diego County is a case in point. Solar Energy

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