U.S. wind power industry employed about 75,000 workers in all 50 states

The 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report estimated that during the decade preceding 2030, the U.S. wind farm industry could support more than 150,000 jobs directly related to the wind industry, 100,000 jobs in associated industries (e.g., accountants, lawyers, steelworkers, and electrical manufacturing), and 200,000 jobs resulting from local economic expansion.

In 2010, the U.S. wind power industry employed about 75,000 workers in all 50 states. The DOE Wind Program, in conjunction with AWEA, sponsors activities to promote workforce training. DOE’s Wind for Schools project, active in 11 states nationwide, helps address the need for a skilled wind energy workforce. In 2010, DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and AWEA developed a draft Wind Workforce Development Roadmap to direct future ctivities.

Wind energy manufacturing continued to grow in 2010. GE Energy provided the majority of the new wind turbines capacity in the United States, installing 2,543 MW, Siemens, 828 MW, Gamesa,564 MW, Mitsubishi, 350 MW; Suzlon, 312 MW, Vestas, 221MW, Acciona, 99 MW.

In October, Vestas Towers America, Inc., opened the world’s largest tower manufacturing plant for wind turbines. Located in the state of Colorado, the facility will employ 400 workers and will be able to produce up to 1,090 towers per year. Other overseas manufacturers to invest in the U.S. market in 2010 included: Chinese manufacturer Goldwind, which announced that it will supply the wind turbines for the 106.5-MW Shady Oaks wind farm project in Illinois; German manufacturer Nordex opened a nacelle assembly plant in Arkansas and Siemens inaugurated a new nacelle plant in Kansas; France’s Alstom Power started construction on a nacelle assembly plant in Texas; and Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi gained approval to move ahead with a new facility in Arkansas to assemble the company’s 2.4-MW turbine.

As in previous years, 95% of all small wind power systems sold in the United States were made by U.S. manufacturers. These same manufacturers also export one-third of their production.

Offshore wind farm deployment

The United States could potentially generate an estimated 4,000 GW of electricity from its offshore wind resources, according to a new resource assessment released in 2010. This is roughly four times the generating capacity currently carried on the U.S. electric grid. The gross resource value likely will shrink by 60%, or more, after all environmental and socioeconomic constraints have been taken into account. Responding to this opportunity, the DOE Wind Program and the Department of the Interior issued a joint report, National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States. Although no offshore wind farm plants have been built in the United States, in April 2010, the Department of Interior approved development of the first offshore wind farm project located on the Outer Continental Shelf, Cape Wind, and by the end of 2010, more than twenty offshore wind farm projects representing more than 2 GW of capacity were in the planning and permitting process.

The mid-Atlantic region offers more than 60 GW of offshore wind energy potential in the relatively shallow waters of the outer continental shelf. To help capture this potential, construction of an Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone transmission project has been proposed by the well-established, independent transmission company, Trans-Elect, and sponsored by Good Energies, Google, and Marubeni Corporation. Without such a transmission backbone, offshore wind farm developers would have to transmit energy to land using radial lines that can make balancing the region’s existing grid more difficult.

In addition, a single offshore backbone, with a limited number of landfall points, would have fewer environmental impacts than building multiple individual radial lines to shore. The AWC project will begin the planning process by filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2011.

Community and tribal wind

Rural landowners, public and customer-owned utilities, school districts, colleges, and Native American tribes are all benefiting from community wind farm projects, that represent about 2% of the overall market. In 2009, DOE selected five community renewable energy deployment projects to receive more than 20.5 million USD (15.25 million euro) in Recovery Act funding awards. One of these awards will support the development of a 30-MW wind farm project in the state of Colorado.

The United States is home to 2.4 million Native Americans living on 96 million acres of tribal lands. DOE Wind Program researchers estimate that tribal lands could provide 14% of the nation’s annual electricity demand while supplying electricity and revenue to the tribes.

Through DOE’s Wind Powering America initiative, DOE experts have worked with more than seven tribal entities to move wind power projects forward. In 2010, construction or feasibility studies began on four wind farm projects totaling more than 475 MW stimulated by Recovery Act funding.

Distributed wind energy

Distributed wind energy is a term used to describe small and mid-sized wind turbines that generate electricity for a home or business. Market data for 2009 showed the distributed wind industry reached 100 MW of installed capacity, more than 80 million USD (59.5 million euro) in sales, and more than 250 million USD (186 million euro) in private equity investment. To further promote this growing sector, the Distributed Wind Energy Association was formed in 2010 and will produce an annual statistical report and advocate for distributed wind on the state and federal levels.

Several important developments in standards and certification took place in 2010 that will ensure a responsible small wind market. The AWEA Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard, approved by the AWEA Standards Development Board (formerly the Standards Coordinating Committee), established minimum strength and safety criteria, as well as a procedure for reporting on duration testing, sound, performance, and annual energy output.

The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) began certifying that turbine test results have met the AWEA standard. Intertek also began certifying small wind turbines in 2010. A new Section 694 for small wind was added to the National Electric Code (NEC) and takes effect in 2011.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), an organization that tests and certifies practitioners in several renewable energy fields, established a Small Wind Installer Certification process in 2010. The first group of installers took their exams in 2010. In 2011, NABCEP will develop a certification process for Small Wind Site Assessors.

In 2010, DOE’s Small Wind Turbine Independent test project tested three small turbines to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. The tests included power performance, acoustic noise, duration, safety and function, and power quality. Test results are made publicly available on NREL’s small wind website.

According to AWEA, nearly 36,000 wind turbines with capacity ratings greater than 1 MW are in commercial operation in the United States. The average capacity of new wind turbines installed in 2010 was 1.77 MW compared with 1.75 MW for 2009. More than 2,890 wind turbines were installed in 2010. The average size of wind farm projects installed in 2010 was 46 MW; however, when wind power projects with wind turbines smaller than 1 MW are excluded, the average project size rises to 69 MW.

Wind energy costs

According to a report published by DOE, there was little change in the capacity weighted average installed cost of wind power plants in the United States from 2009 to 2010. The capacity-weighted average installed cost in 2010 was 2,155 USD/kW (1,603 euro/kW). In 2009, the capacity-weighted average installed cost was 2,144 USD/kW (1,595 euro/kW).

Capacity-weighted average wind power price among 26 sample projects for 2010 was 73 USD/MWh (54 euro/MWh); up from the 62 USD/MWh (46 euro/MWh) for the sample of projects in 2009. This price includes incentives such as the production tax credit or cash grants under the 1603 program; it would be higher without these incentives (8). At the end of 2010 wind power purchase agreements were in the range of 0.05 to 0.06 USD/kWh (0.037 to 0.045 euro/kWh).

According to AWEA’s 2009 Small Wind Global Market Study, the cost of electricity generated by an “average” well-sited small turbine is 0.15 to 0.20 USD/kWh (0.11 to 0.149 euro/kWh).