European Wind Power Could Triple By 2020

A big gust of new electricity is blowing across Europe. The continent – including the United Kingdom – will go from getting 5.5 percent of its electricity from the wind in 2010 to 15.7 percent by 2020, according to a European Wind Energy Association forecast.

Europe had 84.3 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind-power capacity in 2010, and the industry group said it foresees 230 GW by 2020 and 400 GW by 2030, when wind could provide for 28.5 percent of Europe’s electricity. But why stop there when you’re making optimistic forecasts? “Indeed,” the group wrote, “EWEA believes wind energy can provide half of Europe’s power by 2050, with the remainder from other renewable sources.”

European wind power forecast

image via EWEA

But in order for that to happen, the industry needs a little help, it said. “To ensure the continued buoyancy of the wind energy sector and the path to 100 percent renewables in 2050, EU renewables legislation is needed now for the period after 2020,” the EWEA said. It suggested going from the current 19 percent renewable electricity mandate to a binding requirement of 34 percent in 2020 and 100 by 2050.

European wind power forecast

image via EWEA

And here’s why: “Wind power will not only make a very substantial contribution to meeting Europe’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Justin Wilkes, policy director of EWEA. “It (also) strongly accelerates a shift away from expensive fossil fuels, creates jobs, makes Europe more competitive, and provides secure and renewable power production in Europe.”

To meet their wind-power aims, the Europeans are working on the land and on the seas. We recently reported on the EWEA’s midyear update of offshore wind-power development, which showed big gains. The broader forecast just released puts that growth in perspective: At the end of 2010, total installed capacity broke down as 81.4 MW onshore and 2.9 MW offshore. But by 2020, onshore capacity is expected to rise 133 percent to 190,000 MW, while offshore capacity increases 1,280 percent to 40,000 MW.

The full EWEA report, entitled “Pure Power: Wind energy targets for 2020 and 2030,” is available online as a PDF.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.