U.S. wind installations top 1,200 MW in 3Q 2011

The U.S. wind industry installed over 1,200 MW in the third quarter of 2011, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced on Oct. 25. That is the highest number of wind installations in any quarter since 2008.

Thus far in 2011, the wind industry has installed about 3,360 MW total, causing the year-to-date installations for 2011 to exceed this point in 2010 by 75 percent. There are currently more than 8,400 MW under construction.

AWEA largely credits the high numbers of wind installations to federal tax credits. Many wind projects have commenced construction in 2011 in order to qualify for the 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Developers can elect to receive an equivalent cash payment from the Department of Treasury for the value of the 30 percent ITC on projects that began construction before the end of 2011 and are placed in service before 2013.

While Section 1603 will likely expire on Dec. 31, 2011, the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) will be a draw for wind developments in 2012. Under present law, the PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents/kWh for the production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines. AWEA estimates that the PTC has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment. The PTC is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

Until the tax credits expire, AWEA expects that wind installation numbers will remain high – at least through the end of 2012. “We expect that the fourth quarter of 2011 will be the largest quarter of the year, with total installations reaching between 6,500 to 7,500 for the entire year,” said Elizabeth Salerno, director of industry data and analysis.

While AWEA is pushing for a four-year extension of the PTC, Salerno said wind developments post-2012 have a “question mark over them” for the time being.

In the third quarter of 2011, Colorado installed the most new wind capacity, with 501 MW; Minnesota installed103 MW; Oklahoma installed 130 MW; West Virginia installed 98 MW, and Texas rounded out the top 5 states with 88 MW. More than 1,200 MW of wind power are currently under construction in California; more than 800 MW in Oregon; over 700 MW in both Oklahoma and Iowa; and over 600 MW in Illinois, Kansas and Washington.

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