It’s the time of year when numbers start to roll on renewable energy for the year past, and according to the American Wind Energy Association, 2010 only saw half the installations of 2009–but wind power, in general, is looking up for 2011.
That’s because while only 5,115 megawatts of wind power were built out last year, the nation is kicking off 2011 with over 5,600 megawatts under construction. That may be due to the fact that wind power is said to now be cost-competitive with natural gas in terms of new electric generation, spurring utilities to lock in favorable rates. This rate is influenced, in part, by a one-year extension of the 1603 Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy passed by the lame duck Congress in December, bringing in the first quarter of the New Year well above the amount of wind power under development at the same time last year.
The total U.S. wind capacity now stands at 40,180 MW, said the AWEA, an increase in capacity of 15% over the start of 2010. Also, for the first time, U.S. capacity is said to have fallen second to China’s; China now has 41,800 MW in operation, an increase of 62% in capacity over a year ago, according to a Jan. 13 report from the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.
All of which leads Elizabeth Salerno, AWEA Director of Industry Data & Analysis, to speculate that the industry is likely to finish 2011 ahead of 2010 numbers. “Wind’s costs have dropped over the past two years, with power purchase agreements being signed in the range of 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour recently,” she said, in a statement. “With uncertainty around natural gas and power prices as the economy recovers, wind’s long-term price stability is even more valued.”