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Wind’s Share of New Power Down, Coal Up

Wind power provided 26 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. last year, down from 39 percent in 2009, according to figures out today.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2010 shows that the country’s cumulative installed wind capacity grew by 15 percent last year, with the addition of 5,116 MW. The U.S. now has 40,181 MW of wind, which is enough to supply electricity to over 10 million homes.

But after several years of keeping pace with natural gas as joint top sources for new electric capacity (see chart), in 2010 wind fell behind. Compared to wind’s 26 percent for 2010, natural gas installed nearly 40 percent of the year’s new electric generating capacity.  AWEA blames the drop on what it called unstable and short-term policies for wind development.

Coal made a strong showing last year, with over 25 percent of new capacity. Renewables as a whole, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower, collectively made up almost 33 percent of new capacity.

“The numbers reveal that wind continues to be an important player in the nation’s energy sector, given that it provided a quarter of the new installed capacity even in a down year,” the report said. “On the other hand, U.S. reliance on a few conventional energy resources remains.”

Since 2007, wind has contributed 35 percent of all new generating capacity, twice that of coal and nuclear combined, AWEA said.

Last year’s wind installations were barely half the amount installed in 2009, a record year.

But AWEA said that the one-year extension of the 1603 investment tax credit, enacted shortly before it was due to expire last December, has sparked renewed investment in the sector. At the start of this year, 5,600 MW were under construction, more than twice the amount being built at the start of 2010.

AWEA chief executive Denise Bode said the U.S. remains on track to derive 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030, a vision laid out by the Department of Energy under the Bush Administration.

Chart credit: AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2010

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