Wind power could meet about a fifth of the world's electricity demand within 20 years, an industry group and environmental watchdog Greenpeace predicted in a new report released Tuesday.
The global market for wind power grew 41.7 percent on year in 2009, beating average annual growth of 28.6 percent over the past 13 years, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, or GWEC.
China ranked second in the world in installed wind generating capacity in 2009 and was the largest buyer of wind technology, Sawyer told reporters at the launch of GWEC and Greenpeace's Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010 report.
"We would expect China to continue to be the largest market and perhaps even be the (overall) largest market in the world by the end of this year," he said.
The report's "advanced scenario" - its most optimistic outlook - projects the world's combined installed wind turbines would produce 2,600 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity by 2020 - equal to 11.5 to 12.3 percent of power demand.
By 2030, wind energy would produce 5,400 TWh - 18.8 to 21.8 percent of the world's power supply, the report said.
The more conservative "reference" scenario based on figures from the UN's International Energy Agency saw wind power triple in the next decade to cover up to 4.8 percent of electricity - equal to Europe's current total production.
The "moderate" scenario based on current industry figures would see wind power meet up to 9.5 percent of the world's power demand by 2020, the report said.
"For more than the last 10 years, the actual performance of the wind industry has exceeded our advanced scenario every time," said Sawyer.
Under the advanced forecast, 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions would be saved each year, the report said.
This would increase to 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 saved each year by 2030.
The cumulative amounts of CO2 saved would be 10 billion tonnes by 2020 and 34 billion tonnes by 2030, the report said.
When asked to compare China's wind power industry to the US, Sawyer said Beijing was showing more leadership than Washington in alternative energy.
"At the moment, the Chinese market has most of the advantages in the sense that there's a clear and supportive policy framework and very clear government support for developing a domestic industry," Sawyer said.
"Neither of those have really been the case in the United States."