Wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source, according to the American Wind Energy Association's U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, released today on a webinar for association members and reporters.
The U.S. industry topped all energy sources with 42 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity, according to AWEA. Over 6,700 new wind turbines were erected, which produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 3.5 million homes. Overall, America finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines that can power 15.2 million homes.
The bumper crop of wind energy benefited the U.S. economy across all 50 states, through $25 billion in private investment in new U.S. wind farms, tens of millions of dollars paid to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes, and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers.
While jobs numbers were hampered as the year went on by Congress's delay in renewing the primary incentives for American wind power — the production and investment tax credits — their extension on Jan. 1, 2013, for projects that start this year has sent the industry back to work.
The past year also saw new purchases of wind power by 74 electric utilities, along with at least 18 major industrial consumers and 11 school and universities — all taking advantage of the chance to diversify their energy portfolio and stabilize and lower energy costs, typically on long-term, fixed-rate contracts. Rising utility interest has been seen again this year since the PTC extension, with at least seven utilities issuing new requests for proposals to purchase over 1,000 MW of wind power.
Regional power grid operators have reported a flurry of new records for wind generation. New marks have been set by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), SPP (Southwest Power Pool), MISO (Midwest Independent System Operator), BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), and CA-ISO (California Independent System Operator). Xcel Energy's Colorado system has obtained more than 50 percent of its electricity from wind on multiple occasions.
AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with 2,000 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, and component and service suppliers.