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US wind grew 28% in 2012: AWEA

Wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The American Wind Energy Association's U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012 said that the U.S. industry topped all energy sources with 42 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity. Over 6,700 new wind turbines were erected. Overall, America finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines.

According to AWEA, wind energy benefited the U.S. economy across all 50 States, through US$25 billion in private investment in new U.S. wind farms, tens of millions of dollars paid to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes, and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers.

The impact of wind power development was so strong that one industry analyst said it caused a noticeable uptick in the entire U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.

"We had an incredibly productive year in 2012," said Rob Gramlich, Interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "It really showed what this industry can do and the impact we can have with a continued national commitment to renewable energy. We're doing what Americans overwhelmingly say they want: making more clean, renewable energy, and creating good jobs in U.S. factories." AWEA's report found that over 550 factories across the country provide parts and services for the wind energy industry, which provided 80,000 American jobs in 2012.

While jobs numbers were hampered as the year went on by Congress's delay in renewing the primary incentives for American wind power – the production and investment tax credits – their extension on Jan. 1, 2013, for projects that start this year has sent the industry back to work.

In addition to the industry's record growth last year, there were new purchases of wind power by 74 electric utilities, along with at least 18 major industrial consumers and 11 school and universities – typically on long-term, fixed-rate contracts. Rising utility interest has been seen again this year since the PTC extension, with at least seven utilities issuing new requests for proposals to purchase over 1,000 MW of wind power.

On the heels of last year's big success, regional power grid operators have reported a flurry of new records for wind generation. New marks have been set by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), SPP (Southwest Power Pool), MISO (Midwest Independent System Operator), BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), and CA-ISO (California Independent System Operator). Xcel Energy's Colorado system has obtained more than 50 percent of its electricity from wind on multiple occasions. All these have been achieved reliably for electric customers, as utilities become increasingly familiar with integrating more wind power into their operations.

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