Poised for gust of wind power

Last year China became the global leader in wind-power ­technology. The ­Chinese wind-power ­market more than doubled from 12 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to 25.8GW in 2009 and added 18.9GW in 2010 to reach 44.7GW at the end of the year.

Globally there are 160?000 wind turbines producing electricity in 70 countries, with total wind-power capacity standing at 197GW.
China holds a 22.6% stake. The growth in the Chinese market has increased domestic production and two Chinese companies Sinovel and Goldwind are now among the top five turbine manufacturers in the world.

These companies are ­moving into international markets—a ­perfect example of how investing in green technologies can be used to ­create jobs. This has been a hotly debated issue at COP17, where the private sector has called for policy certainty and ­long-term strategy plans to enable the private sector to invest in these ­sectors and scale up production.

“The money is there, but it’s ­having a policy landscape and certainty that will unlock the finances,” said Jeanne Ng of Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings. “What we build today is going to last till 2050, so countries need to put on the table their long- term strategy plans.”

China’s “Wind Base” programme will see it build 138GW of wind power in eight Chinese provinces. But in Africa, Egypt, the ­continent’s wind power leader, has a mere 550 megawatts (MW), Morocco has 286MW and Tunisia has 114MW. South Africa, Cape Verde, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Jordan and Kenya combined only have 32MW of wind power.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council, wind project ­development is slowly but firmly under way in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Ninety percent of South Africa’s electricity needs are generated from coal with the remaining 10% met by nuclear, natural gas, hydro and renewable energy sources.

However, South Africa’s integrated resource plan envisions that in 20 years 42% of all new ­electricity ­capacity will be from renewable energy projects. In line with this it is profiling six renewable energy ­flagship projects, one of which is the South Africa Wind Projects.

The first of these projects is a 100MW-­capacity turbine being installed at Sere in the Western Cape and the second is a 1.8MW turbine installed in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro in 2010. The Global Wind Energy Council predicts that by 2015 global ­capacity will have more than doubled to 459GW.

However, it predicts that Africa and the Middle East will only have a capacity of 7.5GW in 2015, with annual installations of about 2GW. The council has called for tougher emission reduction targets to spur on the potential of wind energy.

“Wind and other renewable technologies are playing a larger role than anyone could have anticipated a few years ago,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council. “But we need ambitious emission reduction targets in order to reach our full potential and spur the other measures necessary to close the ­emissions gap.”

According to the council, wind energy in 2009 saved 209-million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which ­corresponds with 21% of the 2008 Kyoto targets for countries. Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said that the climate ­negotiations in Durban need to send a clear message to the business community with market signals to drive investment into clean energy technologies.

For the latest COP17 news and special features view our special report.

Lloyd Gedye

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