2012 proved to be a record-setting year for the US wind power industry. More than 13 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity was installed across the country last year, with a record-breaking 8,380 megawatts (MW) installed in the fourth quarter (4Q) alone, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) 4Q industry report.
Leveraging private sector investment of $25 billion, utility-scale wind turbines were installed in 26 states and Puerto Rico in 2012.
Cumulative wind power generation capacity totaled 60,007 GW as of year-end 2012, with turbines up and producing clean, renewable electrical power in 39 states and Puerto Rico. The 60 GW milestone was breached just five months after AWEA announced cumulative US wind power capacity had reached 50 GW.
2012: A Remarkable Year for US Wind Power
The more than 60 GW rated capacity of installed US wind power generation is enough to supply the equivalent of nearly 15 million US homes – all those in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined — with electricity, AWEA announced at a January 30 press conference in Washington, D.C.
2012 marks another milestone for US wind power: more wind power capacity was installed in the US last year than that from any other source for the first time, with wind power accounting for 42% of total new generation capacity installed, the AWEA highlighted. Texas, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois led the nation in new wind power capacity installation for 2012.
2012′s total capacity of 13,124 MW of new wind power far exceeds that of the previous annual record, the 10,000 MW installed in 2010.
AWEA interim CEO Rob Gramlich highlighted the multiple, cross-cutting benefits wind power is yielding across US society in a year when the key federal production tax credit (PTC) seemed doomed to expire (the wind energy PTC was extended for another year at the last minute as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the compromise legislative package that avoided the US government going over the so-called “fiscal cliff”):
It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity. We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation’s progress toward a cleaner energy system.
What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers. A total of 66 utilities bought or owned wind power in 2012, up from 42 in 2011. We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly.
The fact that wind power grew by another 28 percent in 2012 alone and poured $25 billion of private investment into the U.S. last year demonstrates wind’s ability to scale up, and continue to serve as a leading source of energy in America.
The benefits extend to the environment, included that politically dreaded term climate change, as well as the economy. “Currently installed wind power will avoid 95.9 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to 1.8% of the entire country’s carbon emissions,” according to AWEA.
AWEA expects to release its full-year wind industry report in April. The following is the industry association’s top 10 list of US states in terms of newly installed wind power capacity for 2012:
1. Texas (1,826 MW)
2. California (1,656 MW)
3. Kansas (1,440 MW)
4. Oklahoma (1,127 MW)
5. Illinois (823 MW)
6. Iowa (814 MW)
7. Oregon (640 MW)
8. Michigan (611 MW)
9. Pennsylvania (550 MW)
10. Colorado (496 MW)
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.