Image: Chinese wind turbine farm
Andy Wong  /  AP
A worker helps install a new turbine at a wind farm in Shangyi, China, last September.
updated 2/3/2010 1:04:50 PM ET 2010-02-03T18:04:50

China doubled the amount of energy generated from windmills last year, a report from the global wind industry said Wednesday.

The Global Wind Energy Council, which represents companies that make and manage wind power stations, said the sector grew rapidly last year — with total wind capacity up 31 percent — despite the economic downturn.

The market for new wind turbines was worth $63 billion in 2009, it said.

China became the biggest market for new wind turbines last year, as it doubled power capacity from 12 gigawatts to 25 gigawatts. The world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is turning to renewables as well as coal as its growing economy calls for more power.

China is aiming to increase that sixfold — to 150 gigawatts — by 2020. The Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association says it could hit that target far earlier. But wind power still accounts for only 1 percent of China's total electricity consumption.

The United States still ranks as the world's largest user of wind power, although only 2 percent of its total electricity consumption comes from wind, the Global Wind Energy Council said. The European Union depends on wind for 9 percent of its power.

Steve Sawyer, the group's secretary general, said wind energy is growing mainly because governments have made it a priority in economic stimulus programs.

"Wind power is now often the most attractive option for new power generation, both in economic and environmental terms, and for improved supply security," he said.

The world had some 158 gigawatts of wind capacity in place by the end of 2009. Sawyer said this avoided some 204 million tons of carbon dioxide that would have been released from burning fossil fuels to produce the same amount of electricity.

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