In 2010, only 5,116 MW of nameplate wind capacity was added in the U.S.—a nearly 50% drop from the record 10,000 MW installed in 2009, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in its newly released annual report. The industry group said, however, that wind power capacity added in 2010 made up 26% of all new generating capacity added in the U.S.—second only to natural gas.

The wind capacity added in 2010 represented 14.6% growth in total U.S. wind installations, which now stand at 40,181 MW, lagging behind China, AWEA said. China added 18,900 MW to become the global leader with nearly 45,000 MW of installed capacity. The 5,116 MW added in the U.S. in 2010 compared weakly to the 9,996 MW installed in 2009, 8,351 MW installed in 2008, and 5,249 MW installed in 2007. About 2,500 MW was installed in 2006 and 2,385 MW in 2005.

According to the group’s report, growth of new wind installations in 2010 was stymied by the “economy’s slow rate of growth,” which caused lower power prices and required less generation. It added, however, that the sector saw key improvements last year, including increased cost-competitiveness. Other achievements were that utilities were increasingly able to lock in long-term power costs for wind power.

Growth was prominent in a number of states with utility-size wind turbine installations, AWEA said. Texas led with a total 10,085 MW of wind capacity. A majority of new wind capacity was owned by independent power producers, although 15% of wind power built in 2010 was owned by utilities, AWEA added.

The “AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2010,” which AWEA has not made publicly available, also says that the wind sector continued to diversify. Last year, 18 turbine manufacturers installed wind turbines ranging from 100 kW to 3 MW in size. The industry also brought 14 new manufacturing facilities online, consistent with 2009.

The sector started 2011 with 5,600 MW under construction—“more than twice the megawatts under construction at the start of 2010,” AWEA said. One reason for the improved numbers was that the “extension of the 1603 tax credit in December 2010 provided a signal to investors to continue growing wind in the U.S., as this strong performance indicates.”

Sources: POWERnews, AWEA