Since taking office, President Obama has been focused on building an energy economy in the United States that is cleaner as well as more efficient and secure. As part of that effort, the Administration has taken historic action over the past few years to support the development and deployment of renewable energy that will create new jobs and jumpstart new industries in America. And we are making significant progress towards those goals.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released its Fourth Quarter Market Report for 2012, which highlights a number of exciting milestones.
The American wind industry had its best year ever in 2012, with more than 13,000 megawatts (MW) installed. In the fourth quarter alone, more than 8,000 MW were deployed – an all-time record for the industry and twice as much wind as the previous record set in the fourth quarter 2009.
Thanks to this growth, the wind industry was able to achieve another milestone in 2012: achieving 60 gigawatts (GW) of cumulative wind capacity in the United States. To put it another way, the United States today has more than 45,000 wind turbines that provide enough electricity to power 14.7 million homes – roughly equivalent to the number of homes in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.
To underscore how quickly wind power is taking root in America, consider this: it took 25 years to reach 10 GW, which occurred in 2006. But it only took four years to grow from 20 GW (2008) to 60GW (2012). And last year – for the first time ever – wind power provided the largest share of new electric capacity (42 percent) in the United States. Of course, more wind also means less carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. With 60 GW installed, its like taking 17.5 million cars off the road.
All of this progress builds on the encouraging trends in renewable energy over the past few years. Since 2008, the U.S. has doubled renewable generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources, and America is now home to some of the largest wind and solar farms in the world. Wind power currently contributes more than 10 percent of total electricity generation in six states, with two of these states above 20 percent. And nearly 70 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year – including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators – was made here in the United States, up from just 35 percent in 2005.
This is what we can achieve when we commit ourselves to smart and effective policies that promote clean energy technologies, create jobs, and grow our economy. That’s why, in addition to making the largest investments in clean energy in American history, President Obama fought for – and secured – an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC). If the PTC had expired at the end of last year, it would have landed a punishing blow to the domestic wind industry resulting in layoffs for tens of thousands of American workers.
But the President refused to let that happen. So instead of layoffs, we are hearing stories from wind companies all across the country – from Iowa and Colorado, to Ohio and Illinois – that are retaining and re-hiring workers. Instead of moving business overseas, these companies are investing in the next generation of American-made wind technology and are poised for additional growth in the years ahead.