Global wind power capacity rose by nearly 26 percent last year, generating electricity equivalent to nearly 33 million passenger cars, Worldwatch Institute reported.

By the end of 2006, wind power installations had a capacity of more than 74,200 megawatts, the Washington-based independent research organization said late on Wednesday.

This is enough to avoid the climate-warming emissions of more than 179 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the report's author, Janet Sawin, wrote in an e-mail.

Germany, Spain and the United States generate nearly 60 percent of the world's wind power. However, India was the third largest wind turbine installer in 2006 and China was fifth largest.

Rapid growth is expected in the next few years in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France and Portugal, the organization said in a statement.

China and the United States will compete for leadership of the global wind industry in the years ahead, Sawin said.