Wind energy generation is one of the most developed methods of harnessing renewable energy. It accounts for a large share of the global renewable energy market. Wind energy can be broadly categorized into two sectors: onshore wind and offshore wind. The offshore wind sector is still in the initial phases of development, with deployment restricted to Europe and Asia Pacific. However, the onshore wind energy sector is developed with significant technology maturity and project development experience.
Currently, Asia Pacific is the leading investor in the onshore wind energy sector, with China and India emerging as market leaders in the region. Financial incentives and subsidies declared by national governments coupled with renewable energy installation targets are the major factors driving investment in the onshore wind energy industry. China led the onshore wind energy market with a record installation of 16030 MW in 2013. Of late, growth of onshore wind energy installations in developed regions such as Europe and the U.S. has been sluggish.
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Europe was once a major hub for onshore wind energy development. The region has not been able to maintain its historical installation rates after the economic crisis. Germany and the U.K. accounted for over 65% share of the total installations in Europe in 2013. However, the region’s renewable policy framework and the European Union’s renewable energy directive are likely to ensure a degree of stability for the onshore wind market in Europe. In terms of installed capacity, the U.S. is one of the leading markets for onshore wind energy globally.
However, onshore wind energy installations in the U.S. declined markedly due to the withdrawal of the production tax credit (PTC) scheme by the government. Nevertheless, PTC is likely to be reintroduced in the near future. Major wind projects, which are currently in various stages of the development pipeline, are likely to be installed in the near future. Brazil is expected to be an investment hotspot for investors dealing in wind energy in Latin America. Argentina and Costa Rica are also exhibiting promising prospects for the development of onshore wind energy.
The levelized cost of electricity from onshore wind power plants is affected by various factors such as annual capacity utilization, financing cost, investment cost, operation & maintenance cost and the assumed economic life of the plant. Wind power plants are capital intensive in nature. Initial investment cost accounts for the major share of the total expenditure; operation & maintenance costs constitute the remaining share of the total expenditure. There has been a continuous change in the structure of the onshore wind energy industry over the past few years.
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Wind turbine developers in China have emerged as the leading players in the wind turbine industry due to large domestic installations. This coupled with the faltering European economy has resulted in major players in Europe losing market share over the past few years. Some of the major turbine developers have forward integrated and started to act as project developers in various nations. Furthermore, research wings of these companies have started focusing on alternate materials and innovative designs for turbine construction in an attempt to achieve significant cost savings. Earlier, the onshore wind industry would focus more on increasing the total nameplate capacity of wind turbines. Now, the focus has further diversified to capacity factors of turbines. This helps companies keep energy costs low by providing the maximum power.
The global wind turbine manufacturing industry is consolidated in nature; the top 10 turbine manufacturers accounted for nearly 80% of the global market share in 2013. Five major turbine manufacturers are based in Europe, three in China, and one each in the U.S. and India. Rapid development of China’s domestic wind energy industry has led to the emergence of several major wind turbine developers such as Goldwind Science and Technology Co., Ltd. However, considering the overall scenario, the turbine manufacturing industry was negatively affected by rising costs and retracting government support. These led to cancellations in expansion plans and scaling back of operations by several industry majors.