U.S. wind energy reaches 50 gigawatts – AWEA

Contributing to the 50-gigawatt threshold were the newly grid connected wind power projects in the states of Nevada, Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Hawaii and Iowa.

As the production tax credit for wind power sails through the United States Congress, the American Wind Energy Association announced that wind power in the United States has reached 50 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity.

Also with these additions, utility-scale wind farms are now located in 39 states, increasing economic and environmental benefits around the country, according to the industry group.

Utility-scale wind power generation began as early as the 1980’s, although it took 23 years to reach 5 GW of generating capacity from 1981 to 2003. Capacity then reached 10 GW in 2006, 25 GW in 2008, and now doubling that this year.

“The last time a new energy technology ramped up to 50 GW was nuclear, in the late 1970’s and early 1980s – since then, no new energy technology has been as successful as wind,” the association said.

The expansion has also been attributed to relative policy stability in 2005 when former President George W. Bush extended the wind energy Production Tax Credit that year. The industry’s manufacturing supply chain started to slow down though, with the tax credit feared to expire at the end of this year.

“These truly are the best of times and could be the worst of times for American wind power,” said AWEA chief Denise Bode. “This month we shattered the 50-gigawatt mark, and we’re on pace for one of our best years ever in terms of megawatts installed. But because of the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Production Tax Credit, incoming orders are grinding to a halt.”

Layoffs have begun in the American manufacturing supply chain due to the uncertainties, she said, and Congress must act to give wind energy a “stable business environment.”

However AWEA notes that more than 10,000 MW of wind farms were under construction at the quarter’s end, an all-time record, with over 100 MW under construction in 21 states including Texas, Kansas and California.