Wind Energy taking off worldwide

The Global Wind Energy Council, a trade association based in Brussels, estimates that wind power capacity grew by 31 percent worldwide in 2009, with 37.5 additional gigawatts installed, bringing global wind power capacity to 157.9 gigawatts.

China accounted for a third of the new capacity, and the Chinese market experienced more than 100 percent growth.

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According to the trade group, more than 500,000 people are now employed by the wind power industry around the world, and the market for wind turbine installations last year was worth about $63 billion. The primary markets today are in Asia, Europe and North America.

''The continued rapid growth of wind power despite the financial crisis and economic downturn is testament to the inherent attractiveness of the technology, which is clean, reliable and quick to install,'' Steve Sawyer, the secretary general of the council, said in a statement issued late last week. ''Wind power has become the power technology of choice a growing number of countries around the world.''

The market in the United States grew by 39 percent, with nearly 10 gigawatts of new capacity installed in 2009. The total installed and grid-connected capacity in the United States is about 35 gigawatts, according to the trade group.

For comparison, a typical U.S. nuclear plant can produce 500 to 1,300 megawatts. A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts.

''The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,'' said Denise Bode, the chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association. But, she added, ''U.S. wind turbine manufacturing is down compared to last year's levels and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow.''

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