New wind energy installations in the U.S. plunged to just 1,210 MW in the second quarter of 2009—falling to less than half of the 2,790 MW of new installations reported for the first quarter of this year—according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The industry group said in a report (PDF) on Tuesday that the reduced number of installations could be explained by a fall in orders and lower level of activity in manufacturing of wind turbines and their components. The development is “troubling in view of the fact that the U.S. industry was previously on track for much larger growth and the global wind power industry is continuing to expand,” AWEA said.

“The numbers are in, and while they show the industry has been swimming upstream, adding some 4,000 MW over the past six months, the fact is that we could be delivering so much more,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Our challenge now is to seize the historic opportunity before us to unleash this entrepreneurial force and build up an entire new industry here in the U.S. that will create jobs, avoid carbon, and strengthen our energy security. To achieve that, Congress and the Administration must pass a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with strong early targets.”

According to AWEA, the total installed U.S. wind nameplate capacity at the end of 2008 was 25,170 MW. The group claimed that the U.S. wind industry last year installed 8,358 MW of new nameplate capacity—or about 42% of the entire new U.S. generating capacity added for that year.

The Energy Information Administration estimates, however, that the energy generated by renewables other than conventional hydroelectric in 2008 totaled only 123,603 thousand MWh—just 3% of 4,110,259 thousand MWh generated by all sectors. Wind energy generated 52,026 thousand MWh—less than 1.3% of the nation’s total generation last year. Current proposals for a federal renewable electricity standard call to mandate from 3% to 6% of U.S. electricity generation to be produced from renewables.

AWEA said that in the second quarter, 10 states installed the 1,210 MW, nudging total U.S. wind power generating capacity to 29,440 MW. The state posting the fastest growth was Missouri, where wind power installations expanded by 90%. Pennsylvania and South Dakota ranked second and third in terms of growth rate in the second quarter, expanding by 28% and 21% respectively.

AWEA also said that three wind turbine and turbine component manufacturing facilities were opened, four facilities were expanding, and eight facilities were announced during the past quarter. This brings the total of opened, expanding, and announced facilities up to 20 since the beginning of the year. “At the same time, many existing supply chain companies have stopped hiring or have furloughed employees due to the slowdown in contracts for wind turbines. Wind turbine component manufacturing investment was one of the bright spots in the economy in 2008, with over 55 facilities added, expanded or announced that year,” AWEA said.

“Manufacturing investment is the canary in the mine, and shows that the future of wind power in this country is very bright but still far from certain,” said Bode. “The reality is that if the nation doesn’t have a firm, long-term renewable energy policy in place, large global companies and small businesses alike will hold back on their manufacturing investment decisions or invest overseas, in countries like China that are soaring ahead. The instances where manufacturing investment is moving forward in the U.S. are in states like Kansas that have demonstrated a commitment to renewable energy and passed a renewable electricity standard. This type of commitment now needs to be made at the national level.”

Source: AWEA, EIA