U.S. Wind Industry Shows Strong Recovery

Did you know that, since 2007, 35% of America’s new electrical generating capacity has been powered by wind–more than twice the amount of new coal and nuclear capacity combined? New numbers from the second quarter of 2011 show that the trend is continuing. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. wind industry installed 1,033 MW of new capacity in the second quarter of this year, a 46% increase over the same period last year. At this rate, wind power is ahead of schedule to perhaps generate 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030–a goal identified by the Department of Energy under the George W. Bush administration.

Most of the new turbines were installed in California (420 MW), followed by Oregon, Illinois, Utah and Ohio. U.S. cumulative wind capacity now totals 42,432 MW, more than a quarter of which is in Texas. Texas is followed by Iowa, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, and Oregon in total installed wind capacity. In addition, Iowa has reached the milestone of generating 20% of the state’s electricity from wind resources.

image via Shutterstock

This quarter’s numbers also show that, while other industries are outsourcing to cut costs, the wind industry has been steadily “in-sourcing”. By July 2011, 60% of new wind power equipment installed in the U.S. was manufactured domestically–a fact that wind power advocates use to defend the ability of the wind energy tax credits to build the U.S. manufacturing base and create jobs.

However, project activity and orders for 2013 and beyond are scant due to policy uncertainty. The Wind Energy Production Tax Credit is set to expire in 2012, and industry analysts caution that the lack of a predictable business environment has already caused layoffs and even bankruptcies in American manufacturing plants and along the supply chain. Industry advocates stress the importance of sustaining the tax credits to help the industry continue to grow.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).