Developing countries in Asia and Africa are likely to see the biggest growth in wind power in the coming years, as falling costs and the need to fight smog makes the technology more attractive in those markets.
While China has already embraced wind power in a big way and will continue to grow rapidly, the industry is just taking off in Africa, according to an analysis of the worldwide market released Wednesday by the Global Wind Energy Council.
While energy security, the stability of wind power costs and job creation are factors that have pushed developing countries to install more wind turbines, "price, speed of deployment and fighting local air pollution have been the main drivers in most of the major growth markets," the GWEC said in its report.
The GWEC is a trade association that represents companies involved in the wind industry.
In 2014, there was a 16-per-cent increase in the amount of wind power installed around the world, bringing the total to 370 gigawatts, enough to power more than 90 million homes.
China installed the most new wind power in 2014 – more than 23 GW – and now has about 115 GW in place, almost double the amount in the second highest country, the United States.
"China is out in front and moving away from everyone else," said Steve Sawyer, GWEC executive director. "China is the global leader in just about everything when it comes to renewable energy."
One of the reasons bolstering the Chinese resolve to rapidly transform their energy system is "the choking smog which is making Beijing, Shanghai and other large cities unlivable," he said.
Still, Mr. Sawyer told reporters on a conference call, Latin America and Africa, which are still small players in the wind business, are poised to become much more important in the coming years. Brazil is now among the top ten countries when it comes to installed wind capacity, he noted, and Mexico is not far behind.
In South Africa there were significant wind installations in 2014 for the first time, as the country grapples with problems with its coal-fired power plants, he said. There is also significant activity in Morocco, Egypt, and parts of East Africa.
"Africa ... will be a major focus of attention for the next five years, preparing for a major boom in the next decade," Mr. Sawyer said.
Over all, the GWEC projects that there will be about 700 GW of wind power around the world by the end of this decade – double what there is now. That will represent more than 6 per cent of global electricity production.
In Canada, where there is now about 10 GW of wind power in place – less than one-tenth of the amount in China – there is little growth in electricity demand, and that's putting a damper on expansion of the wind business. While there are many construction projects under way at the moment, the report notes, there could be a slowdown in a couple of years.
In the United States, the key factor is whether the federal government will continue the Production Tax Credit, which supports the renewable energy industry, over the long term. Without a renewed PTC, wind and other green sectors are expected to stagnate.