US wind energy output hit record in ’15, industry group says

Source: By The Associated Press • Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — Wind energy generated a record 191 megawatt-hours of electricity last year, enough for 17.5 million homes, an industry group said Tuesday.

The American Wind Energy Association said wind produced 4.7 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2015. Coal generated 33 percent and natural gas slightly less than that, the association said.

The association released the statistics at a Vestas Wind Systems turbine plant in Brighton, Colorado, near Denver.

Demand for wind energy is also driving up employment. The industry employed the equivalent of 88,000 full-time workers last year, up 20 percent in a year, the report said.

“We need wind technicians to keep these machines running smoothly,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the association, said at a news conference.

Chris Brown, president of Vestas America, said it can be difficult to find qualified workers.

Starting pay for wind technicians is about $25 an hour, said Auston Van Slyke, wind energy technology director for Ecotech Institute in Aurora, a private school that trains workers for the renewable energy industry.

Texas remains No. 1 for wind energy while Iowa is second. Iowa generated more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind last year, a record for any state, the report said.

The group said tax breaks extended by Congress last year will help stabilize the industry.

Xcel Energy announced Tuesday it plans to build Colorado’s largest wind farm in the eastern part of the state, with enough turbines to generate 600 megawatts of electricity.

David Eves, president of Xcel’s Colorado operation, said the wind farm would occupy land in several counties but declined to say which ones. He also declined to say how much it would cost.

He said more details would come in May.