Last year, the U.S. wind energy industry easily broke its record for new installed capacity. According to the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), nearly 2,500 MW of wind turbines worth more than $3 billion were deployed in 22 states.
The final tally of 2,431 MW raised the capacity of U.S. wind farms by over 35%, to 9,149 MW (Figure 4). The previous record was set in 2001 when 1,697 MW of new capacity was installed. There are now commercial wind turbine installations in 30 states.
4. Big leap. Wind farms are sprouting everywhere since Congress extended the wind energy production tax credit. U.S. installed wind power capacity now exceeds 9,000 MW, thanks to a record-breaking 2,500 MW of new installations last year.
Source: American Wind Energy Association
"Because Congress extended the wind energy production credit before it expired for the first time in the credit’s history, the wind industry is looking forward to several record-breaking years in a row," said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. "Companies can now plan for growth, create jobs, and provide more clean power to customers nationwide. We are finally beginning to tap into wind energy’s enormous potential."
The growth in wind power construction comes at a time when customers across the U.S. are facing sharp hikes in their electricity and natural gas bills. This winter, gas prices in some regions have peaked at $15/million cubic feet (mcf). Monthly average prices have been in the $6 to $13/mcf range, considerably higher than last year’s $5 to $7.
According to the AWEA, wind power provides a hedge against rising energy costs because wind energy production is immune from fuel price spikes. AWEA estimates that because installed wind power capacity in the U.S. of 9,149 MW will reduce natural-gas demand by over 0.5 billion cubic ft (bcf)/day this year, the newest wind farms will help moderate gas prices. What’s more, because the U.S. currently burns about 13 bcf/day of natural gas to generate electricity, during 2006 wind power will reduce consumption of gas for that purpose by about 5%.
For a state-by-state listing of existing and proposed wind energy projects, visit AWEA’s web site: www.awea.org/projects/index.html.