U.S. Adding Record Number of Wind Turbines

Reuters • Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012

U.S. wind power developers are installing record-high numbers of turbines in 2012 but that growth could weaken if a production tax credit expires at the end of this year, an industry group says.

The U.S. wind industry in August for the first time surpassed 50,000MW of generation capacity – enough to power 13 million homes, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says in a report.

Wind developers have added 4,728MW of wind power so far in 2012 with another 8,430MW under construction, a record for this time of year, AWEA says.

But the federal production tax credit for renewable energy is due to expire at the year-end. The group says the credit, which has been continuously in place since 2005, helps create more than $15 billion a year in investment in U.S. wind farms.

“This is what a successful policy looks like when it’s working, but whether wind will continue to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy now depends on whether Congress acts to extend the production tax credit by the end of the year,” Denise Bode, chief executive of AWEA, says in a release.

A proposal to extend the credit for projects that start construction next year won bipartisan support from the Senate Finance Committee on August 2, as part of an overall “tax extenders” package. AWEA says the bill awaits action by the full Congress, expected in its lame-duck session after the November U.S. elections.

“It is up to Congress to bring it to a vote or else lose 37,000 jobs by the first quarter of next year,” Bode says, referring to a forecast by Navigant Consulting if the tax credit is not extended.

AWEA says thousands of layoffs have begun in the manufacturing and development parts of the wind business, even as the construction sector remains busy on this year’s projects.

New installations totaling 1,833MW occurred in the third quarter, bringing U.S. wind capacity to 51,628MW as of October 1, AWEA says.

The year-to-date total stood at 4,728MW at the end of the quarter, up 40% from the same point in 2011 with the average turbine size installed this year at around 2MW, AWEA says.

The top states for new wind capacity in the third quarter were Kansas with 473MW, Oregon with 333MW, Texas with 281MW, Oklahoma with 229MW, and Nevada with 152MW.

Nevada’s wind project was its first, making it the 39th state with utility-scale wind installations, AWEA says.

Across 29 states and Puerto Rico, there are more than 8,430MW of wind projects under construction, a record for this time of year, AWEA says.

Texas leads the country with 1,291MW under construction, followed by California with 1,022MW, Kansas with 836MW, Oklahoma with 734MW, and Iowa with 597MW.

The biggest wind power companies in the United States include units of Florida’s NextEra Energy Inc., Germany’s E.ON AG, Virginia’s AES Corp., Spain’s Iberdrola SA, and France’s EDF Group.

The biggest turbine makers worldwide include Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S, America’s General Electric Co., Spain’s Gamesa, Germany’s Enercon, India’s Suzlon Energy Ltd., and Germany’s Siemens AG.