Wind energy top source for new generation in 2012

Published: January 30 2013 | 5:05 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:46 am in
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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 30, 2013 – The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association announced today, installing a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment, and achieving over 60,000 MW of cumulative wind capacity.

The milestone of 60,000 MW (60 gigawatts) was reached just five months after AWEA announced last August that the U.S. industry had 50,000 MW installed. Today’s 60,007 MW is enough clean, affordable, American wind power to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes, or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.

In this historic year of achievement, wind energy for the first time became the number one source of new U.S. electric generating capacity, providing some 42 percent of all new generating capacity; the final tally will be released in April in AWEA’s annual report. In fact, 2012 was a strong year for all renewables, as together they accounted for over 55 percent of all new U.S. generating capacity.

Resulting from 190 projects across 32 states plus Puerto Rico, this new record for annual installations of over 13,000 MW by the U.S. industry far surpasses the previous record of 10,000 MW installed in 2010.

AWEA Interim CEO Rob Gramlich said, “It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity. We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation's progress toward a cleaner energy system.”

Currently installed wind power will avoid 95.9 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to 1.8% of the entire country’s carbon emissions.

In last year’s fourth quarter alone, 8,380 MW were installed, making it the strongest quarter in U.S. wind power history. This was due in large part to impending expiration of the successful federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). It was slated to end on December 31, 2012, but was extended by Congress on January 1, 2013, as part of the “fiscal cliff package,” the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Gramlich added, “What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers. A total of 66 utilities bought or owned wind power in 2012, up from 42 in 2011. We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly.”

New wind power purchasers last year included at least 18 industrial buyers, 11 schools and universities, and eight towns or cities, showing a significant trend toward nontraditional power purchasers from the industrial sector. Manufacturers of everything from plastics to light bulbs, semiconductors, and badges, farms, and medical centers are now directly purchasing wind power.

“The fact that wind power grew by another 28 percent in 2012 alone and poured $25 billion of private investment into the U.S. last year demonstrates wind’s ability to scale up, and continue to serve as a leading source of energy in America,” Gramlich said.

Top states for new capacity installations in 2012 include:

1. Texas (1,826 MW)

2. California (1,656 MW)

3. Kansas (1,440 MW)

4. Oklahoma (1,127 MW)

5. Illinois (823 MW)

6. Iowa (814 MW)

7. Oregon (640 MW)

8. Michigan (611 MW)

9. Pennsylvania (550 MW)

10. Colorado (496 MW)

States with exciting news in wind project development in 2012 include California, Michigan, and Illinois. The Golden State regained its position as the second largest state in installed wind capacity, surpassing Iowa, which had been number two since 2008. California achieved the 5,000-MW milestone in wind capacity, following Texas, and alongside Iowa.

Illinois had its most successful year ever. Ranking number five in new capacity, Illinois saw the installation of over 800 MW, with half that output sold into the Tennessee Valley Authority market. As one of America’s wind power hubs, Illinois is home to wind power innovation and this year, it installed the first concrete wind tower, which the manufacturer says can support taller turbines to access better winds. Iowa soon followed suit.

While a strong renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is successfully growing wind power in California, such policies are also growing wind projects in upper Midwest states like Michigan. Over 610 MW across 9 projects were built in the Wolverine State, which is close to achieving the 1,000-MW mark within the first few years of its RPS program, while continuing to be a leader in wind manufacturing jobs.

America's wind energy industry workers had been living under threat of the PTC's expiration for over a year and layoffs had already begun, as companies idled factories because of a lack of orders for 2013. Uncertain federal policies have caused a "boom-bust" cycle in U.S. wind energy development for over a decade.

Half the American jobs in wind energy – 37,000 out of 75,000 – and hundreds of U.S. factories in the supply chain would have been at stake had the PTC been allowed to expire, according to a study by Navigant Consulting.

“America's wind energy industry is back on track,” said Gramlich. “With a banner year to celebrate, we look forward to showing how wind power can continue to strengthen America's energy future, and create jobs and business for our families and communities.”

The global wind energy industry will gather in Chicago, Ill., this May 5-8, 2013, for the world’s largest annual wind power event, WINDPOWER 2013. Thousands of workers and leaders from all sectors will attend to show their wares, attend conference sessions, and seek further solutions for success.

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