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Small wind sector to increase tenfold by 2020

19 March 2012 – A report released by the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) says the total of small wind turbines installed all over the world will reach 3,800 MW, representing an almost tenfold increase compared with 2010. The market for new small wind turbines will have a volume of around 750 MW in the year 2020.

The forecast is based on opinions of industry experts, the growth pattern of the large wind industry, and the historical growth trend of the solar photovoltaic renewable industry for the past decade that shares many characteristics in common with the small wind industry. The global large wind annual installed capacity has seen an average growth of 22% between 2001 and 2011 and photovoltaic installed capacity experienced an average annual increase of 39% during the initial period of growth of the solar industry between 2000 and 2010. Accordingly, the small wind industry can be expected to follow similar growth patterns of the large wind and solar industry between until 2020.

The total of installed small wind turbines reached 656,000 units as of the end of 2010, up from 521,000 in 2009 and 460,000 in 2008. Small wind is loosely understood to be anything between from wind turbines with a rated capacity from 6.0 Watts up to 300 kW. However, IEC 61400-2 defines small wind turbines as having a rotor swept area of less than 200 m2, equating to a rated power of approximately 50 kW generating at a voltage below 1,000 V AC or 1,500 V DC.

At the end of 2010 small wind turbines represented a total capacity of around 440 MW compared with a total capacity of 240 GW of large wind turbines. The largest share of the small wind turbines can be found in two countries, China (with 450,000 units totalling 166 MW) and the USA (144,000 units totalling 179 MW), followed by the medium sized markets with two to 22,000 installed units and five to 50 MW total capacity, these being the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain, Poland, Japan and Italy.
Today, more than 330 manufacturers of small wind turbines have been identified in 40 countries on all continents, and another estimated 300 companies are manufacturing equipment for the small wind industry. Most of the manufacturers are still small and medium sized companies. More than half of these manufacturers can be found in only five countries, namely in China and the USA, as well as in Germany, Canada and the UK. In Africa, South Africa is listed as having four such manufacturers and Kenya one.
The WWEA says that in spite of a vibrant small wind sector in many countries, only few governments are offering specific support policies for small wind. Only in China do small wind turbines contribute on a large scale to rural electrification, which is also thanks to the relatively modest price level of small wind turbines in the country.
The WWEA report says that as opposed to developed countries fully competitive small wind markets are rather found in the developing countries where off-grid and mini-grid applications prevail. Small wind, in areas where electricity grid cannot reach, is often economically feasible without additional political support and poses a true rationale in substituting the existing expensive and environmentally damaging diesel generation.