First-quarter U.S. wind industry growth shows promise

AWEA reports that America's wind power industry installed 1,100 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2011 alone and entered the second quarter with another 5,600 MW under construction. Both figures are ahead of 2009, 2010 paces.

The Amercian Wind Energy Assn. (Washington, D.C.) announced on April 28 that America's wind power industry installed 1,100 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2011 alone and entered the second quarter with another 5,600 MW under construction. The under-construction figure is nearly twice the megawatts that the industry reported at this time in both 2009 and 2010; moreover, two-thirds of those megawatts are already locked in under long-term power purchase agreements with electric utilities. The total American wind fleet now stands at 41,400 MW—producing enough clean energy to supply 10 million American homes.

"American wind energy is ramping up, and these first-quarter figures indicate an industry poised for a renaissance. Refined technologies, affordable prices, and continued demand for clean, homegrown energy—these are all reasons why wind has consistently posted strong growth numbers, adding 35 percent of all new generating capacity since 2007," said Denise Bode, AWEA CEO. "In an economy in which gas prices have hit $4 a gallon and are still on the rise, America must implement long-term energy policies centered on homegrown sources. And wind delivers. By powering our electric cars using wind, Americans can pay the equivalent of 70 cents a gallon at the pump."

The first quarter's 1,100 MW of new capacity came online in 12 states, with some seeing double-digit growth. U.S. states with the most capacity additions so far include Minnesota (293 MW), Illinois (240 MW), Washington (151 MW), Idaho (119 MW), and Nebraska (81 MW).

Of the 5,600 MW currently under construction, one third is located in Oregon, Washington and California, making the West Coast a leader in wind project activity. "States continue to lead the nation with clear, strong policies," said Elizabeth Salerno, AWEA's chief economist. "For example, 10 years ago, California led the nation with 60 percent of U.S. wind capacity. With the recent passage of the strongest renewable target in the nation—calling for 33 percent renewables by 2020—California is poised to retake its leadership, as it already had over 600 MW under construction in the first quarter."