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U.S. Adds Nearly 1,700 MW of Wind Capacity in Q3

windQ3growthThe U.S. wind energy industry has installed 1,649 megawatts (MW) of new power generating capacity in the third quarter, which is higher than either the second quarter of 2009 or the third quarter of 2008, bringing the total capacity added this year to date to over 5,800 MW, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The third-quarter report also reveals that wind turbine manufacturing still lags below 2008 levels, in both production and new announcements.

The total wind power capacity now operating in the U.S. is over 31,000 MW, which is enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 9 million homes, and to avoid 57 million tons of carbon emissions annually. This also reduces expected carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2.5 percent, according to the report.

Since the early July announcement of rules to implement the stimulus bill, the wind industry has seen over 1,600 MW (enough to serve the equivalent of 480,000 average households) of completed projects, and over 1,700 MW of construction starts, according to the quarterly report. These projects equate to about $6.5 billion in new investment.

AWEA does not expect the fourth quarter of 2009 to be as strong as the fourth quarter of 2008 since the 5,000 MW now under construction is nearly 38 percent lower than the more than 8,000 MW under construction at this time last year.

The states with the fastest growth rate in wind power projects in the third quarter include Arizona with its first large-scale project, Pennsylvania (29 percent), Illinois (22 percent), Wyoming (21 percent) and New Mexico (20 percent).

The top five states with additions for new capacity in the third quarter are Texas (436 MW), Oregon (251 MW), Illinois (201 MW), Colorado (174 MW) and Wyoming (170 MW).

At the same time, the National Academy of Sciences released its report, “Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use” that evaluates the hidden health and environmental costs of energy production and consumption in the U.S. The report covers the damage air pollution imposes on human health that are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them.

Researchers peg the cost at approximately $120 billion in the U.S. in 2005, which reflects primarily health damages from air pollution associated with electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation. The figure does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize, say researchers.

Instead the report focuses on monetizing the damage of major air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter — on human health, grain crops and timber yields, buildings, and recreation. When possible, it estimates both what the damages were in 2005 (the latest year for which data were available) and what they are likely to be in 2030, with the assumption that current policies continue and new policies already slated for implementation are put in place.

However, the report indicates that climate-related damages caused by each ton of CO2 emissions will be far worse in 2030 than now; even if the total amount of annual emissions remains steady, the damages caused by each ton would increase 50 percent to 80 percent, say researchers.

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