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US Continues to Lead World in Cumulative Wind Power, China Overtakes US in Annual Additions

wind energy


A new report out by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report [PDF], provides us with a few new insights into the national and worldwide wind energy market and growth.

Wind power additions in the U.S. in 2009 were much more than we’ve ever seen. Approximately 10 GW of new capacity (20% more than the previous record set in 2008) were added and $21 billion were invested. Cumulative wind power grew by 40%, despite the financial crisis.

In total, wind power accounted for 39% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2009!

Nonetheless, after four years being in the lead in this category, the U.S. fell behind China in new annual capacity (it is still in the lead in total cumulative capacity — see the quote to follow). China accounted for 36% of the increase in the worldwide market, the U.S. 26%.

“At the end of 2009, cumulative wind power capacity in the United States stood at more than 35,000 MW, ahead of China’s 25,853 MW and Germany’s 25,813 MW.”

In the U.S., four states passed the 10% wind energy penetration line. Texas, as usual, led the way in wind energy growth and total capacity. Here’s more on on the state differences:

With 2,292 MW installed in 2009 alone, Texas dominated the 28 other states in which new large-scale wind turbines were installed in 2009 (the next highest were Indiana with 905 MW and Iowa with 879 MW). In terms of estimated wind energy supply as a proportion of in-state electricity generation, the front-runners include Iowa (19.7%), South Dakota (13.3%), North Dakota (11.9%), and Minnesota (10.7%). Some utilities are seeing higher percentages of wind energy supply than these state totals, with nine utilities estimated to have in excess of 10% wind energy on their systems.

There is also a ton of wind power in the pipeline waiting to be installed:

At the end of 2009, there were roughly 300 GW of wind power capacity within the transmission interconnection queues administered by independent system operators, regional transmission organizations, and utilities reviewed for this report – nearly nine times the installed wind power capacity. This wind power capacity represented almost 60% of all generating capacity within these queues at that time, and was nearly three times as much capacity as the next-largest resource (natural gas). Most (93%) of this wind power capacity is planned for the Midwest, Mountain, Texas, PJM, SPP, and Northwest regions. Not all of this capacity will ultimately be built as planned, but these data demonstrate the high level of developer interest in wind power.

One more big plus (for the U.S.) is that an increasing percentage of the materials used for building wind power projects is being sourced domestically. “Imports of wind turbines and select components in 2009 are estimated at $4.2 billion, down from $5.4 billion in 2008.”

There are a lot of positive findings for the wind energy industry and wind energy fans in this report. There are complexities as well, though, and things don’t always fit cleanly into a linear line. On some of the complexities and general expectations for the future, the report concludes:

2009 continued a string of record-breaking years for the U.S. wind power industry. Looking ahead, expectations are for a slower year in 2010, due to a combination of the financial crisis, lower wholesale electricity prices, and lower demand for renewable energy. Wind power capacity additions in 2009 were buoyed, in part, by projects that were initially slated to be completed in 2008 but that carried over into 2009 when the PTC was extended, somewhat masking the underlying challenges facing the sector. With the extension of federal incentives through 2012, there is less motivation to complete projects in 2010 (though many projects will likely start construction in 2010 in order to be eligible for the 30% Treasury cash grant). Industry analysts project a range from 5,500 MW to 8,000 MW of wind power capacity likely to be installed in the United States in 2010, a drop of 20-45% compared to the nearly 10,000 MW installed in 2009. After a slower 2010, most predictions show market resurgence in 2011 and 2012, as the Recovery Act programs mature and as financing constraints ease. Beyond 2012, however, the picture is considerably less certain, due to the scheduled expiration of a number of federal policies at the end of that year, including the PTC, the ability to elect a 30% ITC in lieu of the PTC, and the ability to receive the 30% Treasury cash grant for projects that initiated construction by the end of 2010.

Wind is growing, but it’s unclear for how long and how much due to clean energy uncertainties in the U.S. Check out the full document for more information.

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Photo Credit: aja via flickr

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