Wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source, according to the American Wind Energy Association's U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, released on a webinar for association members and reporters.
In its best year ever, the U.S. industry topped all energy sources with 42 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity. Over 6,700 new wind turbines were erected, which produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 3.5 million homes. Overall, America finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines that can power 15.2 million homes.
The bumper crop of wind energy benefited the U.S. economy across all 50 states, through $25 billion in private investment in new U.S. wind farms, tens of millions of dollars paid to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes, and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers.
In fact the impact of wind power development was so strong that an industry analyst said it caused a noticeable uptick in the entire U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.
"We had an incredibly productive year in 2012," said Rob Gramlich, Interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "It really showed what this industry can do and the impact we can have with a continued national commitment to renewable energy. We’re doing what Americans overwhelmingly say they want: making more clean, renewable energy and creating good jobs in U.S. factories."
AWEA’s report found that over 550 factories across the country provide parts and services for the wind energy industry, which provided 80,000 American jobs in 2012.
Wind power also helped address the disaster-level drought affecting half of U.S. counties by saving over 35 billion gallons of fresh water (120 gallons for every American), versus other water-intensive energy sources. And, it avoids over 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector annually.
While jobs numbers were hampered as the year went on by Congress's delay in renewing the primary incentives for American wind power — the production and investment tax credits – their extension on Jan. 1, 2013, for projects that start this year has sent the industry back to work. Some 10,000 professionals will gather next month to hear more about fresh opportunities in the industry at the WINDPOWER 2013 Conference & Exhibition, May 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
In addition to the industry's record growth last year, a growing trend augured well for its future: new purchases of wind power by 74 electric utilities, along with at least 18 major industrial consumers and 11 school and universities – all taking advantage of the chance to diversify their energy portfolio and stabilize and lower energy costs, typically on long-term, fixed-rate contracts. Rising utility interest has been seen again this year since the PTC extension, with at least seven utilities issuing new requests for proposals to purchase over 1,000 MW of wind power.
On the heels of last year’s big success, regional power grid operators have reported a flurry of new records for wind generation. New marks have been set by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), SPP (Southwest Power Pool), MISO (Midwest Independent System Operator), BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), and CA-ISO (California Independent System Operator). Xcel Energy's Colorado system has obtained more than 50 percent of its electricity from wind on multiple occasions. All these have been achieved reliably for electric customers, as utilities become increasingly familiar with integrating more wind power into their operations.
U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012 is the definitive source for:
• State rankings on wind energy capacity, jobs, wind generation;
• Market share of wind turbine manufacturers;
• Market share wind project owners and developers;
• Ranking of electric utilities purchasing wind energy;
• Trends in project finance and wind turbine technology;
• Wind activity by congressional district;
• Status of manufacturing facilities producing wind turbine components;
• Status of transmission, offshore wind, and small (distributed) wind activity;
AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with 2,000 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world's largest annual wind power trade show, WINDPOWER® Conference and Exhibition, to be held in Chicago, May 5-8, 2013. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.