The Department of Energy has just released its 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report in an epic bit of campaign timing, as President Obama tours the major wind power producing state of Iowa. According to the report, wind power accounted for a “remarkable” 32 percent of all new electric capacity added to the U.S. grid last year while generating thousands of jobs and accounting for $14 billion in new investment along the way.
Wind Power in the U.S.A.
When the wind industry first began building up steam early in the Obama Administration, there was some criticism over the role of overseas companies and suppliers in the domestic market. However, all that is in the past.
According to the new report, only 35 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms came from U.S. manufacturers in 2005. Now that figure has risen to almost 70 percent, including the turbines and supporting towers along with blades, gears and generators.
In addition to creating thousands of new jobs, technological improvements that include bigger turbines and lighter blades have caused the price of wind power to drop precipitously in just the past few years.
According to the Department of Energy, the price of power from new wind projects that came online in 2011 averaged about 40 percent less than in 2010 and 50 percent less than in 2009.
Federal Support for Domestic Energy
Wind industry and government officials alike give most of the credit for this growth to federal tax credits, which President Obama is on record supporting. In announcing the new report, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said:
“The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years. To ensure that this industry continues to stay competitive, President Obama has called on Congress to extend the successful clean energy tax credits, which are benefitting businesses and manufacturers nationwide.”
On a level playing field, it would make sense to subsidize alternative forms of energy along the same lines that other forms of energy have enjoyed in the past, including oil, gas and nuclear.
However, it seems that wind energy is being singled out for special treatment. Last week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney caused quite a stir when his campaign confirmed his opposition to extending the wind tax credit, and today The Hill reports that his position hasn’t budged an inch.
According to The Hill’s report, the reasoning is that “wind energy should not get taxpayer assistance if it cannot survive in the marketplace on its own.”
Image: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.