Wind power generating capacity increased by 27 percent in 2006 and is expected to increase an additional 26 percent in 2007, proving wind is now a mainstream option for new power generation, according to a market forecast released on Jan. 22 by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, DC). Windâ€™s exponential growth reflects the nationâ€™s increasing demand for clean, safe and domestic energy, and continues to attract both private and public sources of capital.
â€œiPods, flat screen televisions and other highly sought technologies are creating a demand for electricity that is beginning to eclipse our current supply. Wind is a proven, cost-effective source of energy that also alleviates global warming and enhances our nationâ€™s energy security,â€ says AWEA executive director Randall Swisher.
The U.S. wind energy industry installed 2,454 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2006, an investment of approximately $4 billion, billing wind as one of the largest sources of new power generation in the country â€“ second only to natural gas â€“ for the second year in a row. New wind farms boosted cumulative U.S. installed wind energy capacity by 27 percent to 11,603 MW, well above the 10,000-MW milestone reached in August 2006. One megawatt of wind power produces enough electricity to serve 250 to 300 homes on average each day.
Wind energy facilities currently installed in the U.S. will produce an estimated 31 billion kilowatt-hours annually or enough electricity to serve 2.9 million American homes. This 100 percent clean source of electricity will displace approximately 23 million tons of carbon dioxide â€“ the leading greenhouse gas â€“ each year, which would otherwise be emitted by traditional energy sources such as coal, natural gas, oil and other sources.
Wind power has also attracted the support of state and federal government legislatures. The U.S. Congress recently extended the federal production tax credit (PTC) through December 2008 to further expand the number of wind farms throughout the U.S. Based on the success of the PTC to date, AWEA is calling for extending the provision an additional five years.
â€œThe industry has demonstrated a generous return on the investment of both private and public investment in wind,â€ said Swisher. â€œExtending the PTC five years will significantly increase the progress America is making in expanding its use of new forms of energy when theyâ€™ve never been needed more.â€
The industry outlook also finds:
- Texas accounted for nearly a third of the new wind power installed in 2006, taking over the lead from California in cumulative installed capacity. Texas hosts the worldâ€™s single largest operating wind farm, the 735-MW Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, located in Nolan and Taylor counties.
- Much of the new wind equipment in 2006 was produced in new manufacturing facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Additional announcements are expected in 2007. Investment in manufacturing capability signals confidence in the market and lays the groundwork for expanded growth capability.
- New utility-scale turbines were installed in a total of 20 states across the country, from Maine to New Mexico to Alaska.
- The top five states in new installations were Texas (774 MW), Washington (428 MW), California (212 MW), New York (185 MW) and Minnesota (150 MW). AWEA also is soliciting support for passage of H.R. 197, a bill sponsored by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) that will extend the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) for an additional five years. The PTC is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2008. The bill, if passed, will extend the PTC through Dec. 31, 2013.
TOTAL INSTALLED U.S. WIND ENERGY CAPACITY: 11,603 MW as of December 31, 2006
Find out more about wind projects in America by visiting AWEA’s wind energy project map.