How Much Of Renewable Energy Is Wind?

Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished, such as sunlight, wind, water, plants, and geothermal heat. It provides an alternative to the finite fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas that power most of the world today. Using more renewable energy is crucial to combating climate change and building a sustainable global energy system (Source). Renewables made up 11% of total U.S. energy consumption and 17% of electricity generation in 2018, with wind and solar providing the vast majority. While costs and infrastructure limit how fast we can transition, momentum for renewables is accelerating as technologies improve and prices drop.

Wind Energy Overview

Wind power harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air to generate electricity using wind turbines. Modern wind turbines consist of blades attached to a rotor that spins a generator to convert wind energy into electrical energy. The wind flows over the blades, creating lift that rotates the blades and spins the rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft which drives the generator to produce electricity. The generator uses magnetic fields to convert the rotational energy into electrical energy. Wind turbines can be onshore (on land) or offshore (at sea). They come in various sizes from small turbines for homes and businesses to large commercial wind farms with hundreds of utility-scale turbines.

Wind power is considered a renewable energy source because the wind will continually blow. The technology is also clean energy with minimal emissions or pollution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, generating electricity from wind avoids over 100 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually in the United States.[1] Wind power has grown exponentially over the past decades to meet the rising energy demands and sustainability goals in many countries around the world.


Global Wind Energy Capacity

Global installed wind power capacity has seen rapid growth over the past decade. According to data from Global Wind Energy Council, total installed wind capacity worldwide increased from 159 GW in 2009 to over 591 GW by the end of 2019, representing an average annual growth rate of 17%. In 2021, over 93 GW of new wind power capacity was added globally, bringing total installed capacity to around 837 GW.

As of 2021, the top countries for total installed wind power capacity are China, the United States, Germany, India and Spain. China leads with over 328 GW, accounting for close to 40% of global wind power capacity. The U.S. has the second highest capacity at over 132 GW as of 2021. Significant growth is expected to continue, with projections that global wind power capacity could reach over 2,110 GW by 2030.


Global Wind Energy Council – Global Wind Report 2021

International Renewable Energy Agency – Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020

Leading Countries in Wind Power

China is the world leader in wind power capacity. According to Wikipedia, China had over 328,970 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power capacity in 2022, representing over a third of the global total [1]. The United States ranked second with 132,738 MW of capacity. Other top countries are Germany, India, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Sweden, and Canada [2].

Many of the leading wind power countries have seen tremendous growth in recent years. For example, according to World Population Review, the United States more than doubled its wind power capacity between 2015-2020, growing from 74,000 MW to over 130,000 MW [3]. China’s growth has been even more dramatic, with its installed capacity increasing over 6-fold in the last decade. The outlook remains strong, with most projections forecasting continued double-digit growth globally.

Wind Power in the United States

The United States is a leading country for wind power generation and capacity. As of 2021, the U.S. had over 132,000 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power capacity, the second highest in the world behind China [1]. Texas has the most wind power capacity of any U.S. state at over 40,000 MW. Other top states include Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Kansas [2].

Wind power capacity in the U.S. has grown rapidly in the past two decades. In 2000, the total installed capacity was only 2,578 MW but it has increased over 50 times to the current amount. The growth rate was fastest in the late 2000s, with over 10,000 MW added per year from 2007 to 2009. More recently, over 13,000 MW was added in 2021 as wind power continues to expand [3].

Share of Renewables from Wind

Wind power comprised about 5.3% of total renewable energy generation globally in 2021, according to Our World in Data. This is compared to 15.2% from solar, 71.3% from biofuels and waste, and 7.0% from geothermal, hydro and marine sources combined. The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that in 2020, wind generation accounted for around 47% of renewable electricity in the U.S., with hydro at 28%, solar at 16%, and geothermal at 9%. So while wind makes up a relatively small portion of total global renewable energy production, it accounts for nearly half of U.S. renewable electricity generation.

The growth potential for wind is significant, as it currently meets only a small fraction of world energy demand. With supportive policies, declining costs, and technological advances, wind generation is projected to expand its renewable energy share in the coming decades.

Growth Projections for Wind

Wind power capacity is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace in the coming years. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), wind power could supply up to 30% of global electricity by 2030. They project total installed wind capacity to reach 2,110 GW by 2030, up from 743 GW at the end of 2021.

The regions expected to see the most growth are Asia, Europe and North America. China currently leads the world in installed wind capacity and will remain the leader. The U.S. is forecast to install around 124 GW of new wind capacity from 2022 to 2030. Europe is also set to expand wind substantially, led by mature markets like Germany, Spain and the UK as well as emerging markets like Poland.

Floating offshore wind farms are an emerging sector with huge potential that will boost growth. As technology improves and costs decline, floating offshore turbines open up vast areas for development, like the deep waters along U.S. coasts. The Global Wind Energy Council expects floating offshore wind capacity to reach 228 GW by 2030.

While the growth projections are optimistic, realizing these targets will require concerted policy support and private investment in wind technology and infrastructure. But the future looks bright for this renewable energy source to supply an increasing share of electricity worldwide.

Challenges for Wind Power

While wind energy offers many advantages as a renewable energy source, it also faces some limitations and criticisms. Some of the main challenges associated with wind power include:

Intermittent and variable nature – The wind does not blow consistently, which means wind turbines do not generate electricity at a constant rate. This presents challenges for integrating large amounts of wind power into the grid and matching supply with demand.

High upfront costs – Constructing utility-scale wind farms requires significant upfront investments, including land, permitting, turbines, grid connections, and other infrastructure. The payback period can be several years.

Land use conflicts – Wind projects require large areas of land, which can compete with other uses or raise concerns about impacts on wildlife and natural habitats. There are also potential visual impacts and noise pollution.

Technical challenges – Advances are still needed to improve turbine efficiency, reliability, and longevity while reducing costs. There are also complex physics and engineering challenges around turbine and wind farm design.

Public opposition – For various reasons, including visual impacts, noise, and wildlife concerns, wind projects sometimes face organized public opposition which can hinder development.

Other Major Renewable Sources

While wind is a major source of renewable energy, there are several other important renewable energy sources to consider. According to the NRDC, some of the other major renewable energy sources include:

Solar Power: Solar photovoltaic panels convert sunlight directly into electricity. Solar power capacity has grown rapidly in recent years, but still accounts for a smaller share of renewable generation compared to wind and hydroelectric power globally. However, solar has great potential for continued growth in sun-rich areas.

Hydroelectric Power: Hydropower harnesses the energy of flowing water to generate electricity. It accounts for over half of renewable energy production globally. However, most major hydro resources in developed countries have already been utilized. There is still potential to grow hydropower in developing countries.

Geothermal Energy: Geothermal power comes from heat contained below the earth’s surface. Steam or heated water from underground reservoirs can drive turbines to produce electricity. While geothermal capacity is much lower than wind and solar currently, it provides constant baseload power unlike variable wind and solar sources.


Wind power has seen substantial growth over the past decade as countries and companies push to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix. Wind accounted for over 6% of global electricity generation in 2019. While wind remains a relatively small contributor compared to fossil fuels, projections show continued strong growth in wind capacity. Wind power is now one of the most affordable and scalable forms of renewable energy. However, there are still challenges around turbine efficiency, grid integration, and wind intermittency that the industry must address. If these issues can be overcome, wind has the potential to supply 20-30% of global electricity by 2030. With supportive policies and technological advances, the future looks bright for wind as a key player in the transition to a clean energy system.

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