This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 05, 2003

Record Global Wind and Solar Growth Seen as the Start of Trend

The global capacity to produce power from wind turbines and solar power systems grew a record amount in 2002, according to two recent announcements, and at least one company expects that high-growth trend to continue for the next decade.

The global capacity to generate electricity from wind power grew by a record 6,868 megawatts in 2002, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The 28 percent growth in capacity represents an investment of $7.3 billion, boosting world wind capacity to more than 31,000 megawatts, enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 7.5 million average U.S. homes. Global wind power capacity has quadrupled over the past five years, according to AWEA. See the AWEA press release.

The global capacity for solar power production grew at nearly the same rate, increasing by 26 percent in 2002, according to Solarbuzz, Inc., an international solar energy consulting company. New solar power installations totaled a record 436 megawatts last year, fueled in part by a 60 percent growth in the United States, despite a weak economy. Manufacturers' worldwide shipments of solar cells grew by 36 percent in 2002, to 530 megawatts, suggesting that manufacturing capacity managed to keep ahead of demand during 2002. See the Solarbuzz press release.

Those high growth rates may be a continuing trend, according to a recent report from Clean Edge Inc. The report finds that the industries for wind power, solar photovoltaic technologies, and fuel cells will grow nearly tenfold over the next decade. A sustained growth of nearly 26 percent per year would be needed to accomplish that feat. See the Clean Edge report.