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US Wind Power Hits 50 GW Milestone

The US has installed a total of 50 GW of wind energy capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association – hitting the milestone as Congress works to extend the wind energy production tax credit, set to expire Dec. 31.

Cumulative US wind power reached 10 GW in 2006, and has now doubled in four years, from 25 GW in 2008. The last time energy technology to ramp up to 50 GW was nuclear, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to AWEA.

AWEA’s second quarter 2012 market report says the wind industry installed 1.2 GW of new generation capacity in Q2, down from the 1.695 GW installed in Q1. The report notes that the combined numbers for 2012 Q1 and Q2 are a 34 percent increase over the wind energy capacity installed in the first half of 2011.

With the growth of capacity has come higher domestic content in US-deployed wind turbines, which surged from 25 percent US-made in 2005 to more than 60 percent today, with an increasing number of factories joining the supply chain here. Today, 500 US factories provide wind power components, AWEA says.

Utility-scale wind farms are now located in 39 states, according to AWEA. Fourteen of these states have more than 1 GW each; however, only 13 states added capacity in Q2. Ohio installed the most wind power in Q2 (see chart), followed by Illinois, California, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Projects newly connected to the power grid feature turbines made by General Electric, REpower, Siemens and Vestas and include:

  • Pattern Energy’s 151.8 MW Spring Valley wind farm, 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada.
  • Enel Green Power North America’s 148.8 MW Rocky Ridge wind farm in Oklahoma.
  • enXco’s 140 MW Pacific Wind project in Kern County, California.
  • Utah Associated Municipal Power’s 57.6 MW Horse Butte project in Idaho.
  • First Wind’s 21 MW Kaheawa Wind II wind farm in Hawaii.

Driving this expansion has been relative policy stability starting in 2005, when President George W. Bush and Congress extended the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), the AWEA says. The credit has faced extinction in that time, but never been allowed to expire.

However, the PTC’s scheduled expiration date at the end of the year has caused the industry’s manufacturing supply chain to start slowing down, given the 18-month project development cycle under which the industry operates.

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