Illinois tops nation in wind energy

Source: Sandra Guy • Chicago Sun-Times • Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012

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3-20-09 The Grand Ridge wind farm in La Salle County, Illinois, 80 miles southwest of Chicago. GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE is partnering with leading global wind power developer Invenergy Wind LLC, by investing in Illinois and Texas wind farms that will produce emissions-free electricity equivalent to taking 96,000 average US cars off the road. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times


Total number of new wind turbines installed in 2011:

No. 1: Illinois — 404

No. 2: Minnesota — 331

No. 3: California — 328

No. 4: Iowa — 282

No. 5: Colorado —262

Total power capacity of new wind installations for 2011:

No.1: California — 921.3 megawatts

No. 2: Illinois — 692.45

No. 3: Iowa — 646.7

No. 4: Minnesota — 541.8

No. 5: Colorado — 501

Despite skepticism about the viability of solar-component and electric-car battery companies that have gone bankrupt recently, Illinois is proving that firms can create jobs and help the environment with wind turbines and wind farms, alternative-power advocates said Thursday.

In 2011, Illinois topped the nation in the number of new wind turbines installed here — 404 — and ranked No. 2 behind California in the total amount of the turbines’ power capacity , according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association.

Winergy Drive Systems Corp. of Elgin, one of 28 companies in Illinois that manufacture components for the wind industry, has grown to more than 200 employees from seven when it started operating 11 years ago, CEO Terry Royer said.

Those 28 companies employ more than 1,000, the report said.

Eighty percent of Winergy’s growth has happened in the past four years, largely because of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, which provided $2.3 billion in tax credits for advanced energy manufacturing.

The tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour produced goes to wind energy developers.

The tax credit, along with more sophisticated technology, has boosted wind energy’s competitiveness in the marketplace, Royer said.

Winergy, a profitable business whose parent company is based in Germany, makes gearboxes that speed up turbine output.

The Wind Energy Association is lobbying Congress to extend the tax credit beyond the end of this year.

The Chicago area is home to at least 50 wind energy companies, according to environmental advocates.

Meanwhile, skepticism remains about the long-term viability of alternative energy.

Ener1, which makes car batteries, filed for bankruptcy Thursday, and General Motors started an ad campaign to reassure consumers that the Chevrolet Volt electric car is safe after battery fires occurred in test vehicles.