AWEA: Wind power accounted for 35% of new capacity in 2011

The American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) 2011 Annual Market Report reveals that the U.S. wind industry installed 6,816 MW in 2011, a 31 percent increase from 2010. U.S. wind installations accounted for 2.9 percent of electric power generation in 2011 and total 46,916 MW to date.

In 2011, wind power continued its trend as the No. 2 source of new electric capacity at 35 percent, still behind natural gas.

“Low natural gas prices have made us leaner and meaner and continue to be a driver to make us even more competitive,” said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA, during a call with reporters.

In 2011, more than 75,000 people were employed in the U.S. wind energy sector, including 30,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.

South Dakota and Iowa lead a record five states that received more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind in 2011. Other states in the top five were North Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming.

National turbine manufacturing continued to expand in 2011, and the U.S. is now home to 23 turbine manufacturers. This number reflects the overall growth of the American wind industry, as the U.S. had only five turbine manufacturers in 2005, said Elizabeth Salerno, director of data and analysis for AWEA. “As the market expands, we’re getting more companies involved.”

The size of turbines is also increasing, the report revealed. Average turbine size in 2011 was 1.97 MW, an increase from the 1.77 MW average size in 2010. In 2011, a total of 8,750 MW of turbine orders was placed.

The developers with the most 2011 installations were NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE), Iberdrola and EDP. Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) was the electric utility to add the most wind capacity to its portfolio in 2011.

There are currently more than 8,300 MW of wind energy projects under construction, reflecting an annual growth rate of 35 percent year after year for the past five years. In 2012, Kansas is expected to install the most wind capacity, with a projected 1,189 MW. Following Kansas is Texas, with 857 MW expected to be installed this year.

The greatest concern to the U.S. wind power market is the scheduled expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) at the end of this year. Wind turbine manufacturers have not yet received any orders for 2013 projects because of the uncertainty surrounding the PTC, Salerno said.

A House bill seeking to extend the existing PTC for wind energy (H.R. 3307, the “American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act”) has garnered the support of 90 cosponsors. Extension legislation was introduced in the Senate on March 15 by seven senators.

The report can be purchased by interested parties here.

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