The small wind power market holds “enormous potential”, especially for nonelectrified areas in developing countries, yet only a handful of governments are offering specific support policies for small wind generating capacity, the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) said in a report this week.
“Wherever the wind blows, small wind turbines can provide electricity at affordable prices to local citizens, be it for rural electrification, like in China or in other developing countries or, connected to the grid, like often in the industrialised countries,” WWEA president He Dexin said.
The ‘Small Wind Report 2012’ stated that fewer than ten countries were offering sufficient feed-in tariffs for small wind, and that there was almost a complete lack of support schemes in developing countries, where the demand for small wind turbines would be huge.
“Only in China, small wind turbine today contributes 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 stated.
WWEA secretary general Stefan Gsänger urged governments to set up favourable legal environments for small wind power generation.
“Short and comprehensive permission procedures, appropriate feed-in tariffs or similar support schemes, and comprehensive standard and certification schemes should be implemented in the near future.”
The WWEA believes the sector has the potential to increase its market share substantially in the foreseeable future and become a mature industry.
Gsänger said that the large number of small wind turbine manufacturers, many of them still very small, highlighted the potential of the small wind industry, to create jobs and become a booming industry sector.
The report pointed to more than 330 manufacturers of small wind turbines currently being in operation in 40 countries on all continents, with another estimated 300 companies manufacturing equipment for the small wind industry.
More than half of these manufacturers are found in five countries, namely in China the US, Germany, Canada and the UK.
The WWEA estimated that global installed small wind power generation capacity could increase almost tenfold to 3 800 MW over the next decade. The market for new small wind turbines was expected to demand a volume of about 750 MW of new small wind turbines in 2020.
The report said the total number of small wind turbines installed across the world reached 656 000 units by the end of 2010. This number pointed to growth in the market, when compared with the 521 000 units installed in 2009 and only 60 000 units in 2008.
The total installed capacity of small wind turbines reached 440 MW in 2010, while a total capacity of 240 GW was installed at the same time for large wind turbines.
The largest share of small wind turbines can be found in two countries, namely China with 450 000 units, accounting for about 166 MW, and the US with 144 000 units, accounting for 179 MW. These countries were followed by the medium-sized markets in the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain, Poland, Japan and Italy, with between 2 and 22 000 installed units, accounting for 5 MW to 50 MW total capacity.