US Wind Energy Industry Has Strongest Year Ever

The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association , installing a record 13,124MW of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment,and achieving over 60,000MW of cumulative wind capacity.

The milestone of 60,000MW (60GW) was reached just five months after AWEA announced last August that the U.S. industry had 50,000MW installed. Today’s 60,007MW is enough clean, affordable, American wind power to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes, or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.

In this historic year of achievement, wind energy for the first time became the number one source of new U.S. electric generating capacity, providing some 42% of all new generating capacity; the final tally will be released in April in AWEA’s annual report. In fact, 2012 was a strong year for all renewables, as together they accounted for over 55% of all new U.S. generating capacity.

Resulting from 190 projects across 32 states plus Puerto Rico, this new record for annual installations of over 13,000 MW by the U.S. industry far surpasses the previous record of 10,000MW installed in 2010.

AWEA Interim CEO Rob Gramlich says, “It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity. We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation’s progress toward a cleaner energy system.”

Currently installed wind power will avoid 95.9 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to 1.8% of the entire country’s carbon emissions.

In last year’s fourth quarter alone, 8,380MW were installed, making it the strongest quarter in U.S. wind power history. This was due in large part to impending expiration of the successful federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). It was slated to end at the end of last year, but was extended by Congress on Jan. 1, as part of the “fiscal cliff package,” the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Gramlich adds, “What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers. A total of 66 utilities bought or owned wind power in 2012, up from 42 in 2011. We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly.”

New wind power purchasers last year included at least 18 industrial buyers, 11 schools and universities, and eight towns or cities, showing a significant trend toward nontraditional power purchasers from the industrial sector. Manufacturers of everything from plastics to light bulbs, semiconductors, and badges, farms, and medical centers are now directly purchasing wind power.

“The fact that wind power grew by another 28% in 2012 alone and poured $25 billion of private investment into the U.S. last year demonstrates wind’s ability to scale up, and continue to serve as a leading source of energy in America,” Gramlich says.

Top states for new capacity installations in 2012 include:

1. Texas (1,826MW)
2. California (1,656MW)
3. Kansas (1,440MW)
4. Oklahoma (1,127MW)
5. Illinois (823MW)
6. Iowa (814MW)
7. Oregon (640MW)
8. Michigan (611MW)
9. Pennsylvania (550MW)
10. Colorado (496MW)