European developers installed 11,800 megawatts of wind power in 2014, enough to replace the capacity of a dozen nuclear reactors, the European Wind Energy Association said Tuesday. Wind projects this year could soar even higher as companies chase government incentives and countries seek to lower greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
Last year’s wind build in Europe was 3.8 percent higher than in 2013 and made up nearly 45 percent of 2014’s total EU power capacity installations. Germany, which has some of the world’s most aggressive renewable energy policies, drove much of the growth, accounting for nearly half of total installations last year, the Brussels-based trade group said in its annual statistics report.
"Europe is at a turning point for investment in renewables and particularly wind,” Thomas Becker, the group’s CEO, said in a statement. “Plowing financial capital into the industries of old in Europe is beginning to look unwise. By contrast, renewables are pushing ahead and investments in wind remain attractive."
Europe now has 128,800 megawatts of installed wind power capacity, about 6 percent of which is built offshore. This year, developers could add 15,600 megawatts – an annual record – but the industry will face uncertainty in coming years as government subsidies dwindle.
“The project pipeline is well-stocked [in 2015], but the window of opportunity to execute and commission these projects is drawing closer, especially in the U.K., Poland, Germany and Italy,” Dave Hostert, a European wind analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Bloomberg News.
In the United States, a similar scenario has already played out. Developers in 2014 installed only about one-third the capacity of new projects in 2012 after a key government tax credit expired. The U.S. installed about 4,850 megawatts of new capacity last year, down from a record 13,000 megawatts two years ago, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s main trade group.
This year’s numbers could slip even further as developers delay new projects until Congress renews the expired Production Tax Credit. The Obama administration called for reinstating the subsidy in its fiscal 2016 budget request, but the proposal is already facing stiff opposition from Republican leaders.
“Congress must find a way forward so we don’t lose years of investment and send this promising industry over a cliff,” Tom Kiernan, the American trade group’s CEO, said in a statement late last month.
The U.S. now has nearly 66,000 megawatts in onshore wind power capacity, enough to light up 18 million average American homes each year.