In what was “not an easy year for the Chinese wind industry,” according to Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA) Secretary General Li Junfeng, the country’s wind builders nevertheless built at least 18 gigawatts of wind in 2011, 44 percent of all the wind built in the world last year.

The U.S. recovered from a weaker 2010, largely because the rush began late in 2011 to get as many towers in the ground as possible before the production tax credit (PTC) expires at the end of 2012. That led to 6,810 megawatts of new installed capacity for the year, second best in the world but little more than a third of what China built.

The world built 41 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2011, a 21 percent increase over 2010. Today, 75 countries have utility-scale wind and 22 have more than a gigawatt of installed capacity. Led by China and India, the bulk of new installation was in emerging economies rather than their developed counterparts.

China instituted new standards for its turbine builders and its grid in 2011, but that did not stop its robust and subsidized industry from bringing its cumulative installed capacity to 62 gigawatts, just over a quarter of all the wind in the world. Chinese industry leaders expect even bigger 2012 numbers, Li said.

This is not just Chinese hyperbole. American Superconductor CEO/President Daniel McGahn, whose company is deeply involved in China, recently reported that China's wind installations may have exceeded 20 gigawatts in 2011, setting a new record and far from the expected “double-digit decline from the 19 gigawatts that China installed in 2010.” Furthermore, McGahn said, “it's clear that China will remain, by far, the world's largest installer of wind power.”

India was third in the world in new wind, with three gigawatts. Cumulatively, European Union (EU) nations added 9,616 megawatts in 2011 and now have nearly 94 gigawatts. The 2012 performance of that segment of the industry is, however, gravely in doubt, threatened by the uncertainties of the financial crisis.

Latin America showed a hint of its potential by adding a total of 1.2 gigawatts. Brazil brought its cumulative capacity to 1.5 gigawatts by adding 587 new megawatts. But that is just the beginning. The country has, according to Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEOLICA) Executive Director Pedro Perrelli, “a pipeline of more than 7,000 megawatts to be completed before the end of 2016.”