Wind Power Sets Record in 1998

January 10, 1999 by Jeff Shepard

According to the Worldwatch Institute (Washington, DC) wind power set an all-time record in 1998, with an added 2,100MW of new wind energy capacity installed worldwide, 35 percent more than was added in 1997. The new turbines added in 1998 increased the overall wind generating capacity worldwide to 9,600MW at the end of the year, double the capacity in place three years ago. The wind turbines are expected to generate about 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1999, enough to power 3.5 million suburban homes. Sales for the wind power industry were roughly $2 billion.According to Worldwatch, advances in technology is likely to continue to spur wind energy development in the next few years. Larger turbines, more efficient manufacturing and careful siting of wind machines have reduced wind power costs from $2,600 per kilowatt in 1981 to $800 in 1998, according to the institute, bringing wind power to economic parity with coal-based electricity. With further cost declines projected, wind power could become the most economical new source of electricity in many countries in the next decade, the organization stated. Worldwatch expects at least 2,500MW of capacity to be installed in 1999, with Spain and the United States probably exceeding 500MW of new turbines each. Germany led new installations in 1998, adding 800MW to boost its wind energy capacity to over 2,800MW. Germany's wind industry is producing as much electricity as two of the country's largest coal-fired power plants. Wind provides 15 percent of the electricity in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. Spain was second in terms of growth, adding 395MW, increasing its overall capacity by 86 percent to 850MW. The United States added 235MW of new capacity across ten different states. The largest projects included a 107MW wind farm in Minnesota, a 42MW project in Wyoming, and a 25MW project in Oregon.