Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 11:37 GMT
The world turns to wind power
The US surge in wind energy generation may relate to tax incentives
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
Preliminary estimates by the Worldwatch Institute suggest that 35% more wind-power generating capacity came on stream last year than in 1997.
The Institute, based in Washington DC, reckons that an extra 2,100 megawatts (MW) of wind power were added to the global total in 1998.
The turbines added last year have pushed overall wind capacity globally to 9,600 MW, double what was in place in 1995. The installed capacity is capable of generating about 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity - enough for 3.5 million suburban homes.
Billion dollar industry
The wind power industry is also expanding rapidly. Its sales last year amounted to about $2 billion. The growth in wind energy is most marked in four countries, according to the Institute - Germany, Denmark, Spain and the USA.
Germany increased its capacity more than any other country in 1998, adding 800 MW to reach a total of more than 2,800 MW. The country's wind industry now produces as much electricity as two of its largest coal-fired power plants.
Wind power installations in the USA saw about 235 MW of new capacity added, in 10 different states. Worldwatch says one explanation for the surge was an attempt to take advantage of a wind energy tax credit which is due to expire next June.
Worldwatch foresees the greatest potential for wind power growth in developing countries hungry for power but short of their own reserves of fossil fuels. It says India is in the lead with more than 900 MW of wind power in place. But development has slowed there in the last two years because of a suspension of the tax breaks that were introduced in the mid-1990s.
Worldwatch expects the industry to grow still faster during 1999, with at least 2,500 MW likely to be installed.