US wind energy supplies 2.4 million homes

Wind energy is expanding as established industry leaders maintain their position and manufacturing continues to grow, although at a slower rate than in 2008. The US wind industry installed 10 GW of new wind generating capacity last year, the largest year in history, and power that is equivalent to three large nuclear reactors.

“Jobs, business opportunities, clean air, energy security - wind power is delivering today on all those fronts for Americans,” says Denise Bode of AWEA. “Our annual report documents an industry hard at work and on the verge of explosive growth if the right policies are put in place.”

“A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will provide the long-term certainty that businesses need to invest tens of billions of dollars in new installations and manufacturing facilities which would create hundreds of thousands of American jobs,” she adds.

Wind industry expands despite economy

Despite a slowdown in wind turbine manufacturing compared to 2008, 10 new manufacturing facilities came online in the USA last year, 20 were announced and 9 facilities were expanded. In total, the US wind energy industry has opened, announced or expanded more than 100 facilities in the past three years, boosting the total of wind turbine manufacturing facilities operating in the US to 200.

Offshore wind energy is gaining momentum and the report lists 7 projects with significant progress in the planning, permitting and testing process. Both the Federal government and several states established significant milestones in 2009 to encourage offshore wind power development.

To ensure a skilled workforce across the wind energy industry, there are 205 educational programmes which offer a certificate, degree or coursework related to wind energy. The largest segments are university and college programmes (45%) and community colleges or technical school programmes (43%).

GE Energy remains top in wind turbine sales in the USA, NextEra Energy Resources leads in wind farm ownership and Xcel Energy leads utilities in the use of wind power. Demand for small wind systems (<100 kW of rated capacity) grew 15% last year, adding 20 MW of capacity.

14 states in 'Gigawatt Club' for wind

Among the 50 state, Iowa leads in percentage of electricity from wind power, sourcing 14% of its power from wind, while Texas consolidated its lead in wind capacity and in largest wind farms installed. There are 36 states with utility-scale wind projects and 14 states in the ‘Gigawatt Club’ with more than 1 GW of installed wind capacity each.

The US wind fleet of 35 GW will avoid 62 Mt of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road. The wind turbines will conserve 20 billion gallons of water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation from steam of cooling in conventional power plants.

The Renewable Electricity Standard is a flexible, market-driven policy that enables wind and other renewable energy sources to provide green power. A RES ensures that some amount of renewable energy is included in the portfolio of electricity resources serving a state or country.