U.S. wind energy market growing, but slower than China

China now tops the United States as the fastest growing wind power market in the world for the first time in four years, according to a report by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The Wind & Water Power Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the DOE funded the report.

China built 36 percent of new wind farm projects in 2009, compared with 26 percent in the U.S. Even though China added new wind power projects at a faster pace in 2009, the United States market kept growing, with 28 states building new wind farm plants during the year, for a total of $21 billion invested.

Texas led the country in 2009, building 2,292 MW of new wind turbines generating capacity. Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind energy.

The U.S. also had 35,000 MW in total wind energy capacity at the end of 2009. China had 25,853 MW and Germany 25,813 MW.

The United States imported $4.2 billion worth of wind turbines parts last year, down from $5.4 billion in 2008 and $4.6 billion in 2007. Seven of the 10 biggest wind turbines manufacturers for the U.S. market now have factories in the U.S.

GE is still the top wind turbine maker in the United States, with 40 percent of domestic capacity, followed by Vestas, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Suzlon, Clipper and Gamesa.

Installed wind power project costs in 2009 averaged $2,120/kW, up 9 percent from 2008 figures. There are expectations that costs will drop in the near future as past cost pressures ease and work their way through to average installed costs.

A combination of the U.S. recession, lower wholesale electricity prices and lower demand for renewable energy are leading to expectations for a slower year in 2010.