America?s wind energy industry grew by 15% in 2010

America’s wind power industry grew by 15% in 2010 and provided 26% of all new electric generating capacity in the United States. With the 5,116 MW added last year, U.S. wind farm installations now stand at 40,181 MW, enough to supply electricity for over 10 million American homes.

“The American wind energy industry is delivering, despite competing with energy sectors that have permanent government subsidies in place,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Wind farm is consistently performing,” she said, “adding 35% of all new generating capacity since 2007— that’s twice what coal and nuclear added combined.”

Statistics from the AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, released in conjunction with the AWEA Wind Power Finance and Investment Workshop at New York City’s Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square, reveal that wind turbines continues to be an important player in the nation’s energy sector, with lower costs competitive with other generation sources, and it’s second in new generation capacity only to natural gas.

“It’s simple: Wind energy is affordable,” says Elizabeth Salerno, Director of Data and Analysis and Chief Economist for AWEA. “It’s costing less than ever, and competing with other sources thanks to improved turbines built for better performance without a big price tag.”

In addition to wind power’s increased affordability, the 1603 investment tax credit program contributed to new wind farm project starts in 2010. On top of new construction starts, 2010 saw new manufacturing as well. A virtuous cycle was in play—manufacturers continued to respond to the demand and set up shop in the U.S. The industry brought 14 new manufacturing facilities online, consistent with 2009.

“Continued interest and investment by manufacturers in America demonstrates that the U.S. continues to be a global powerhouse for wind development, today and in the future,” Bode said. With these new investments, wind energy is now up to 20,000 manufacturing jobs across 42 states.”

The U.S. wind market entered 2011 with 5,600 MW under construction—more than twice the megawatts under construction at the start of 2010. The extension of the 1603 tax credit in December 2010 provided a signal to investors to continue growing wind in the U.S., as this strong performance indicates.

However, the U.S. remains reliant on a few conventional energy sources and needs to further diversify its energy portfolio, Bode said. “We remain on track to produce 20% of America’s electricity by 2030 with wind, as laid out by the Department of Energy during the Bush Administration,” she continued. “We know wind is ready to deliver even more of our portfolio with clean, affordable, homegrown power.”