'Over 15,000MW' of wind power installed in 2006
Wind turbines erected around the world last year will produce as much energy as 23 coal-fired power stations, according to analysis by an American think tank.
The calculations take into account the intermittent energy production of turbines, using the figure of 34% of potential capacity compared with 72% for the average coal power station.
The increase in worldwide wind power last year saw global capacity increase by almost 26%, with Germany, Spain and the USA generating over half the total.
Roughly US$22bn was invested into the technology in Europe and North America last year.
"Wind power is on track to soon play a major role in reducing fossil fuel dependence and slowing the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Worldwatch senior researcher Janet Sawin.
"Already, the 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide displaced by the new wind plants installed last year equalled more than 5 percent of the year's growth in global emissions.
"If the wind market quadruples over the next nine years - a highly plausible scenario -wind power could be reducing global emissions growth by 20% in 2015."
India and China are also installing wind turbines at a growing pace and Worldwatch predicts rapid growth for the industry in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Portugal as efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions accelerate around the globe and dozens of countries are working to add or strengthen laws that support the development of wind power.
"China and the United States will compete for leadership of the global wind industry in the years ahead," said Ms Sawin.
"Although the US industry has got a 20-year head start, the Chinese are gaining ground rapidly. Whichever nation wins, it is encouraging to see the world's top two coal burners fighting for the top spot in wind energy."
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