Wind installations continue 2010 slowdown

The U.S. industry added just 395 MW of wind-powered electric generating capacity in the third quarter of 2010, making it the lowest quarter since 2007. AWEA renews call for national renewable electricity standard.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, D.C.) reported on Oct. 29 that the U.S. wind energy industry experienced its slowest quarter since 2007 and called for action to strengthen policies that unleashed a wave of private investment in 2008 and 2009.

The U.S. industry added just 395 MW of wind-powered electric generating capacity in the third quarter of 2010, making it the lowest quarter since 2007. Year-to-date installations stood at 1,634 MW, down 72 percent versus 2009, and the lowest level since 2006. In 2010, wind projects in the U.S. are being installed at half the rate as in Europe, and a third of the rate as in China.

Factors include lack of long-term U.S. energy policies, such as a renewable electricity standard (RES), and resulting lack of certainty for business, which has the country's utilities failing to move forward with wind build-out plans. Such policies are already in place in China and Europe, resulting in more than $35 billion of expected investment in 2010 — nearly four times the investment the U.S. will see this year. The industry calls on the U.S. Congress to match such efforts to establish long-term policy.

"We're increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, impacting our national security, instead of diversifying our portfolio to include more renewables," said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other third-party sources show that wind accounted for 39 percent of new installed capacity in 2009, versus 13 percent from coal; in the first nine months of 2010, however, the ratio flipped, and wind accounted for only 14 percent, versus 39 percent from coal.

Bode said the best way to galvanize the industry now will be continued tax credits and a federal benchmark of 15 percent renewables in the national electricity mix by 2020, as sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), John Ensign (R-NV), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

There are now 14 states with more than 1,000 MW of wind energy systems installed, and 37 states with some utility-scale wind installed. Iowa, which got more than 14 percent of its electricity from wind in 2009, is nearing 20 percent from wind, although government figures for 2010 have yet to be released. Oregon took the lead in adding the most capacity in the third quarter, the spot historically filled by Texas, where the industry now awaits investment in more electric transmission lines. With 111 MW installed this quarter, Indiana moved into the top 10 wind power states.