wind-turbines
Michael Lemmon

The tally is in: Wind had a hell of a 2012. From the Guardian:

Wind power expanded by almost 20% in 2012 around the world to reach a new peak of 282 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity. Of the 45GW of new wind turbines that arrived in 2012, China and the US led the way with 13GW each, while Germany, India and the UK were next with about 2GW apiece. …

The UK now ranks sixth in the world for installed wind power, with 8.5GW. In Europe, only Germany (31GW) and Spain (23GW) have more. China leads the world with 77GW installed and the US is second with 60GW.

The amount of installed capacity has been growing nearly exponentially over the past two decades.

Interestingly, last year’s surge is thanks in part to American politics. More than five of the U.S.’ 13 added gigawatts came in December, according to the Energy Information Administration.

wind added 2012 us

Approximately 40% of the total 2012 wind capacity additions (12,620 MW) came online in December, just before the scheduled expiration of the wind production tax credit (PTC). During December 2012, 59 new wind projects totaling 5,253 MW began commercial operation, the largest-ever single-month capacity increase for U.S. wind energy. About 50% of the total December wind capacity additions were installed in three states: Texas (1,120MW), Oklahoma (794 MW), and California (730 MW).

You may remember the kerfuffle over the wind production tax credit. (If you don’t, good news: It’s due to return soon.) Worried that Congress would kill a key incentive to use of wind energy in electricity production, manufacturers rushed to complete projects by the end of the year. Apparently, it worked. Half of the country’s new generating capacity last year was renewable, mostly due to wind.

wind install locations 2012 us
EIA

And now the downside. First, one reason China tied the U.S. for new wind capacity was that China slowed down developing its wind production. And, second, the country is expected to add 240 gigawatts of new coal power by 2016. The total amount of wind capacity in the world after 2012? About 280 gigawatts.