The State of Wind in the U.S.

Posted on May 25, 2011. Filed under: Gary's Blog | Tags: , , , , , |

The State of Wind in the U.S.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is having its annual conference this week and the group put out its annual report on the state of wind. It provides some useful tidbits about how things are going in our effort to decarbonize our electricity grid.

Key Facts:

– Wind added more than 35 percent of all new generating capacity in America over the
past four years, more than coal and nuclear combined.

– The U.S. installed 5,116 MW of wind power capacity in 2010, posting 15% growth for the year.

– The entire U.S. wind fleet for utility-scale wind totals 40,181 MW of capacity, or 21% of the world’s installed wind power capacity.

– The entire U.S. wind fleet produced 2.3% of the nation’s electricity generation in 2010, enough to power 9 million homes and the equivalent electricity produced in the entire state of Louisiana, Kentucky, or Missouri.

– In 2010, there are now 38 states across the U.S. with utility-scale wind turbines, and there are wind industry jobs across all 50 states.

– There are over 400 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. supplying some of the 8,000 components in a wind turbine.

– The installed wind fleet will avoid nearly 24 billion gallons of water consumption annually.

– Over the past 10 years, wind energy has increased 16 times over in the U.S.

The news is not all good. According to the Report, 2010 was a difficult year for the wind industry. There was a 50% decline in wind installations between 2009 and 2010, which perpetuates the unsteady year-to-year wind energy trends attributed to the lack of long-term predictable federal policies. The uncertainty of national policies has resulted in the continuation of state targets driving wind installations in many parts of the country. Despite the down year, during 2010 the national wind industry did post double-digit growth and was responsible for 25% of the country’s new installed energy capacity. It benefited from strong support from the financial sector, with $11.1 billion in project debt and tax equity deals closed during the year. The2011 outlook for wind is better following a one-year extension of the 1603 investment tax credit program for renewable energy and because the industry entered 2011 with over 5,600 MW of electric power currently under construction, much more than the 2,750 MW under construction entering 2010.

The Report cites that the major impediment to significant wind industry growth is the inadequacy of the national electric grid, as many proposed wind projects cannot be deployed because there is insufficient transmission capacity to transmit their output. As wind power expands nationally, several factors will determine which regions will experience wind activity, including proximity to power demand, access to transmission, power prices, strength of wind resource, and policy.
As we know, wind is only one of the legs upon which a clean energy future will stand. We need more energy efficiency, solar, and other clean sources to continue their growth as well. Putting a price on carbon is the most sure-fire way to get things accelerated.

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