US wind power capacity grows 72% in H2

By Renewable Energy Focus Staff

US wind energy continued to rebound in 2011, with 2,151 MW of electrical generating capacity installed in the first half of the year compared to 1,250 MW during the same period in 2010. This was a growth of 72%, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

According to the US Wind Industry Second Quarter Market Report 2011, an additional 7,354 MW of new capacity was under construction by 1 July 2011, more than at any time since the third quarter of 2008.

The wind sector averaged 3.2% of US electricity over the strong wind months between January and April 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration's EIA’s) Electric Power Monthly report. The AWEA says wind energy remains ahead of schedule to generate 20% of America's electricity by 2030.

1,033 MW were installed during Q2 2011 compared 709 MW during the same period last year, up 46% for the same quarter last year.

California installed the most, with 420 MW, followed by Oregon (201 MW), Illinois (150 MW), Utah (102 MW) and Ohio (56.5 MW). Maryland added its second utility-scale project, of 50 MW, taking its wind energy capacity up 71%. Construction also began on the first utility-scale wind farm in Nevada.

According to the report, further large-scale construction is ahead in Iowa, where financier Warren Buffett is helping bankroll the installation of 258 turbines in five counties with a combined capacity of 593 MW. Wind energy generates 20% of Iowa’s electricity from January to April 2011, according to the EIA.

Texas, which has over a quarter of US total cumulative wind capacity, tops the table of total installed capacity. It followed by Iowa, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, and Oregon.

However, AWEA analysts have cautioned that without stable policy such as an extension of the production tax credit, set to expire in 2012, the industry's recovery will stall.

Project activity and orders for 2013 and beyond are scant because of the lack of a predictable business environment, causing layoffs and even bankruptcies in American manufacturing plants and the supply chain, says AWEA. These struggles for US wind manufacturers will only worsen if Congress were to allow the tax credit to expire.

Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA, says: "Clearly Congress cannot take for granted all the wind energy manufacturing and construction jobs that have been a bright spot through the recession. Wind tax credits enjoy broad bipartisan support, and since they're not spending programs, current projects are safe and prospects for extension of the production tax credit beyond 2012 are good."